Anyone living near the intersection of Beneva and Clark Road in Sarasota is pretty darn lucky in my mind. Lucky because they can enjoy Curry Station’s lunch buffet or a night out savoring any one of over 125 delicious options on their dinner menu. Seriously . . . when I show property during my day job as a Realtor, I always point out the better restaurants in any given area. Believe me, having great restaurants nearby is important to new home buyers. Well regarded restaurants help support nearby property values, and create that friendly neighborhood atmosphere everyone is looking for. And knowing that, I definitely put Curry Station on my list of great neighborhood restaurants. It’s just that good!
After all these years dining out, I’m still surprised when someone describes Indian food as “spicy.” I won’t disagree with that description at face value, especially if they’re referring to the tantalizing flavors of cardamon, nutmeg, garlic, coriander, mint, cumin, curry or coconut . . . spices you expect in great Indian cuisine. But if you’re shying away from Indian food due to fears of overpowering red chili and hot peppers, then you obviously haven’t given Curry Station a chance! Trust me . . . Curry Station will gladly dial up the spice or dial it down to whatever makes your taste buds sing. Just let your server known if you’re a fan of mild, medium, medium plus, hot or really, really hot flavor. Because on the whole, you have to ask for scorching hot flavor . . . the chefs at Curry Station aren’t going to sneak that in on you.
When we last stopped by Curry Station the restaurant was busy, both with dine-in and carry out, and we were happy to find the service and food delivered like clockwork. As we looked over the extensive menu we enjoyed a complimentary basket of Papadom, an Indian-style cracker made from chickpeas or lentils that’s light, crispy and elegant in subtle flavor. Served along with a trio of chunky onion chutney, tamarind chutney and a beautiful green chutney of mint, cilantro and ginger, you’re immediately embraced with the flavors of India, as Papadom is as proper in an Indian restaurant as chips and salsa in a Tex/Mex joint!
Mart and I like to share an appetizer or two, however, with the lower prices on Curry Station’s menu, we easily could have ordered more! Looking for a full flavored soup, I started with an order of the Chicken Dhanwai Sorba, highly recommended by our server.
When it arrived, steaming hot and packed with flavor, I knew this chicken and coriander soup was exactly what I was craving. The spice level delivered just enough heat to catch my attention without making my eyes water or cause me to grab my water glass. The flavor profile was ideal for my taste, and Dhanwai Sorba will easily go on my list of favorite locally-made soups. I did “let” Mart taste a few spoonful, but then I wrapped by hand around the bowl, pulled it over to my side of the table and guarded that bowl until it was all gone. I totally loved the Dhanwai Sorba!
Mart was in the mood for an app with a just a bit of crunch, so he ordered the Veg Pakoda, a small plate of crispy fried mixed vegetables fried in a gently spiced chickpea batter.
Consisting of mostly potato, zucchini and sweet potato, these little medallions of veggie goodness offered more of a light crunch vs a crumbling shell like you find in a tempura batter. This was all well and good as the batter hugged onto those veggies, keeping them nice and hot. Next visit we’re going to try the Onion Bhaji and see how the chickpea batter compares to an American version of fried onion rings.
For his main course, Mart ordered the Goat Curry, knowing full well that we’d be sharing. Dining “family style” is standard at Indian restaurants. The entrees are presented in their own serving bowls or plates, with the accompanying rice served on a separate dish. Just scoop up as much rice as you’d like, then drop a spoonful or two of your entrée on top . . . maybe sneaking some of your dining partner’s entrée in the process. Not only will you enjoy the entrée you chose, but you’ll get to sample what everyone else at your table ordered! Win! Win!
The curry sauce on Mart’s Goat Curry tasted more like the onion and tomato gravy described on the menu than a typical curry. Yes, the curry flavor was there, but the richness of the gravy wasn’t overpowered by it. Mart and I both used pieces of Aalo Paratha Nan, (a pita-like bread stuffed with potatoes, turmeric, and cumin) to sop up the curry gravy. The texture of the Nan was creamy and soft, the perfect vehicle for getting all the flavors of that gravy from the plate to your mouth. Again, Curry Station delivered really high on the “delicious” scale with this dish. (We almost arm wrestled over that gravy!) Mart capped off his description of the goat curry best, by crowning it his “Goat-to-dish!”
Having knocked it out of the ballpark with his suggestion of the soup, I took our server’s suggestion again and ordered the Lamb Madras, a wonderfully flavored dish featuring chunks of braised lamb cooked with curry leaves, coconut, and madras spices. Madras is essentially coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, fennel, cinnamon, peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon, turmeric, ground ginger and a little cayenne pepper (more or less to taste). You know . . . simple spices you have lying around the house! (Not!!!)
Madras has more of a Moroccan taste than typical Indian food, but we’re not complaining. My Lamb Madras was delicious and so elevated in flavor from the standard braised lamb dish simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Our server suggested I venture into the “medium-plus” side of the spicy-heat scale, which I found more subtle than I expected. The large chunks of lamb were two to three bites each and thoroughly drenched in the madras sauce. Score another win in quality, taste and price ($15.99) by this foodie!
Although each entrée came with white Basmati rice, we couldn’t resist ordering an additional side of Saffron Lemon Rice. It just sounded like something we had to try. Both rice plates were expertly cooked, with the fluffy, nutty flavors of Basmati rice shining through. The Saffron Lemon Rice featured small curry leaves, mustard seeds and bay leaf seasoning as well as the flavors of saffron and lemon. We initially suspected shaved carrots were added to enhance the vibrant colors of the confetti-like rice, but couldn’t actually pick up the taste of carrots, so we were stumped. Was it yams? Squash? Who cares . . . all we know is the Saffron Lemon Rice was as beautiful as it was satisfying.
Though we meant to save room for dessert, we had over-estimated our willpower to resist chowing down on every morsel of food left on our plates. Yes, the portions were large enough for us to take some home, but honestly . . . they were too delicious to ignore, even if it meant giving up grazing so as to enjoy dessert. Fortunately for Mart, his Taj Mahal beer was large enough to last the entire meal!
Curry Station is a “solid” restaurant. Solid in knowing who they are, solid in delivering on their menu profile and certainly solid in understanding who their guests are and what makes them happy. I’d have no problem recommending Curry Station to anyone, even someone afraid of trying something new. There’s just that special “something” that Curry Station has, and as I said at the beginning of this blog, I’d like to live a little closer to them. Because then I could be there all the time.
All. The. Time!