lost an Indian Füd Trial against Shalimar
Street/Leavenworth, SF, CA
hearing at The Blue Lamp
around Jones and O'Farrell seems to be San Francisco's version of "Curry
Lane," the stretch of roughly 20 Indian restaurants literally on top of
one another up and down New York's 6th Street. Within a block here, you've
got at least a handful of Indian/Pakistani places, including the perennial
favorites Pakwan, Shalimar, and Naan 'N Curry, where we happened to dine
it's been so long since we enjoyed Shalimar's chaos that I had a hard
time fairly comparing the chicken from the tandoor. I do know I loved
Shalimar's, and now I love Naan's, and I guess that's enough to know.
I don't know what goes on down there in the clay depths, but the chicken
that emerges is so tender and charged with charred-in flavor that I have
to marvel, verbally, during every bite. That's enough to know too.
Vindaloo deserves mention. Be careful here -- it's spicy. As in a cartoon,
I watched Judge Turner's hat slowly lift off his head and smoke stream
from his ears near the end of this dish. Apparently a glutton for punishment,
I lapped up the remaining sauce with my naans. There was something addictive
about that Vindaloo and I'd like to eat it again right now.
Wow, yet another relatively
cheap Indian joint. One thing I've learned over the last year and a half:
You don't need to go fancy to get great Indian food. We've been to Pakwan,
Shalimar and now N 'N C and by the looks of the neighborhood it doesn't
We ordered a mess
of dishes. Daal Ghost ($4.99), lamb cooked with lentil (one of nine lamb
dishes on the menu), is pretty mild as spicy goes but had very nice tender
bits of lamb. Like most dishes the portions aren't huge but enough for
two or three to get a good idea of what's up. The Chicken Vindaloo ($5.99)
was up to par, with the hot (spicy) factor on high, as it should be. You
knew you were in for a bit of sweat from the first bite. Nothing crazy
though, as long as you're not a sensitive Sammy. This is just one of 10
chicken curry dishes they serve up. Next we paid a visit to the Tandoori
oven. This is where the Indian style shines. We went for the Chicken Tikka
Kabab ($4.99), boneless cubed chicken skewered and cooked in a clay oven.
A nice-sized portion of the yummiest of chicken bits you can hope to find.
The Seekh Kabaab is the ground beef marinated in spices and cooked in
that special oven -- an amazing tube of meat. They also do it in lamb.
Of course we had the
Naans -- plain, onion, and a garlic (1-2 bucks). All were tasty but I
prefer the plain. You have enough going on elsewhere on your plate to
be worrying about the flavor of your bread. We neglected to try any of
the vegetable dishes but next time I plan on trying the Palak Paneer,
spinach cooked with homemade cheese, or maybe the Aloo Palak, potato cooked
with spinach. I just want to see what they can do with the spinach.
Naan 'N Curry goes
right along with the other cheap type Indian food dining experience. You
order at the counter, set your own table and pay as you leave. No one
is coming by to see how your meal is, 'cause they know it's good.
Do you enjoy having
a blow torch pointed at your tongue? I know I do. So when we got a taste
of the fare at Naan-N-Curry I couldn't have been happier. Immediately
after feasting on Indian food I often ask myself why I would intentionally
cause myself such pain. I guess I enjoy the flavors between shrieks of
Naan-N-Curry is in
the Tenderloin district, and has the air you would expect: low-key with
no pretensions. Not exactly as casual as Shalimar (which is just around
the corner) but you won't find starched white tablecloths. You will find
a good selection of Indian/Pakistani dishes at fairly reasonable prices.
We got a bunch of
stuff. The Chicken Tikka Kabob ($4.99) is the old favorite, tandoori chicken
-- but boneless. Excellent, possibly the best tandoori chicken I've had.
And, not insanely hot. Spicy, yogurty, oniony goodness. We also got some
Daal Ghost ($4.99), simply because it was called Ghost. That was a lamb
and lentil stew kind of thing. Pretty good, curry flavors and whatnot.
Not, uh, hauntingly delicious, though.
The Seekh Kabaab($1.99
per stick) is another favorite of the Court. Basically spicy beef sausage
on a stick. Not sure if that's tandoored or sauteed. But all food on a
stick is good. Very tasty, and I'd say the second hottest dish, spice-wise.
The hottest dish of all? That would be the Chicken Vindaloo. Even the
other two normally stoic judges (and despite their macho posturing here)
had to admit that it was "hot." After a bite of that I was transported
back to the time I took a header into the tandoor at Pakwan. Until you've
stuck your head into a raging tandoor, you don't know good Indian food.
The rice was rice
and the naan (flat grilled bread) was adequate. Couple bucks for a slab
of that. Even the onion and garlic naan was pretty bland, but you'll be
thankful for that to offset the spice-chaos going on with the other dishes.
About the only complaint
I would make is the portions seemed a LITTLE skimpy for the price, considering
the low-brow location and atmosphere. But, all good quality with that
blow-torch-on-tongue essence that we all love. I say go ahead and add
it to your rounds of Indian joints.