I stood there and inhaled the aromatic bouquet of coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, ginger and the sweetness of black pepper; just a few of the spices better known together as curry, all swirling together like ghosts in the air of the small Broadway eatery.
If you’ve never been to Flamin Curry then you must, and should you find yourself unsure of what to order, the best way to get started is with a one, two, or three-item combo.
An “item” is any of the earthy colored gravies and can include: goat, chicken, daal (lentils), chana masala (chickpeas), tikkas and many more.
The curries you choose are scooped into a take-out container along with a healthy portion of basmati (thin, long-grained) rice, you select your naan, plain, or garlic (I suggest the garlic) and you’re all set.
Not sure what to pick? Ask. I find in these situations it’s the best way to get the right thing without too much risk. I simply said, “What’s good?” and I was instantly directed to the greatest Palak Paneer I’ve ever tasted, a deep green and aromatic spinach curry with cubes of firm fresh cheese. And Aloo Baingan, a slightly spicy vegan curry with potatoes and eggplant.
It was suggested to me before my arrival to get a mango lassi, which if you’ve never had lassi it’s a creamy yogurt-based drink sweetened with (in this case) mango and a little cardamom. I have to urge you to try this if you haven’t. Not only is it sweet, creamy, and refreshing on a hot day with spicy food, it serves a valuable purpose as well.
Once you’ve ordered you’ll see small covered containers in front of you for a dollar each. One will be filled with about a tablespoon of sweet and tangy chutney, and the other simply says “pickles.” Buy them. It’s worth the two bucks. The explosions of flavor contained in these two little plastic cups is the difference between well, that was pretty good, and wow, what did I just eat?
The goal here is to build flavors. Your curry of choice is going to be a blend of spices lending the backbone of what you taste, and while the first few bites are going to be aromatic drifts of complex sensations, you will quickly experience palate fatigue. That’s where the pickles and chutney come in.
The pickles are made from green mango, turmeric, carrot, lemon, lemon juice, mustard, oil, salt and vinegar soaking together for 3-4 weeks. The result is an explosion of sour, tangy, bright acidity that cuts through the kaleidoscopic puzzle of spices.
Just a little goes a long way; the same goes for the sweet and tangy chutney. Just add a bit to a bite and observe how the bright and electrifying, salty, tart acidity brings a new level to your curry, like the cymbal crash at the end of a drum solo bringing all those complex flavors back to life.
When you realize that the tastes of the curry spice and tanginess of the pickles and chutney aren’t as exciting as they were during the first bite, that’s where the mango lassi comes in.
The creamy sweet yogurt drink acts as a perfect palate cleanser, like when you’re driving and it starts to rain lightly, but not enough to turn on your windshield wipers. As you drive you realize it’s getting hard to see so you pulse your wipers once and are momentarily surprised at how much clearer everything is. That’s what the mango lassi does, but for your mouth.
Cost: ($) Two people can easily eat for under $30.
Vibe: Neighborhood takeout with limited seating inside and out.
Go-to Dish: Palak Paneer with a small side of the pickles.
Drinks: Mango lassi.