Owner Sonny Solomon and Executive Chef Binder Saini are serving up not only quality eats, but also a new energy to the Indian dining scene in Astoria. If you look around you’ll notice that the trendy and booming Queens neighborhood has an Indian restaurant on nearly ever block, but Kurry Qulture stands out from the rest with a combination of fine dining, eye-catching contemporary art, Bollywood-pop music and a substantial cocktail list that gives the place more of a comfortable lounge-feel.
Kurry Qulture features flavors and preparations of southern coastal India—a departure from the cream-based heavier dishes of northern India that I’ve been accustomed to. Each item that my guest and I tried was robust in flavor and spice, with a contrast of sweet and savory, spicy and tangy. Our tasting began with a complimentary warm tomato soup that was light and brothy, smelling of coriander and warm spice. It was a shot-sized portion and meant to be a glimpse into the palette of flavors we were about to taste throughout the meal.
For starters, we tried two vegetarian options and one seafood nosh. My favorite of the three was the Pav Bhaji, buttered bread rolls and vegetable gravy eaten like a sandwich or open-faced with fork and knife. You could also dip the bread in the gravy if you like to eat sans utensils like me. It was smoky, rustic comfort-food with a medium kick. I would come back for it!
We also had one of their most popular appetizers, the KQ cauliflower florets, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with garlic tomato chutney. The sauce was too sweet for my taste, but I thought it was a creative pairing. The Shrimp Chettinad on a tapioca wafer was a standout. The plump, cooked shrimp were doused in a chile sauce with a satisfying level of spice. The presentation was lovely and it’s a good portion to split between two people for an appetizer.
For entrees, there are just as many meat options as vegetarian: lamb, shrimp, salmon, chicken, duck and goat. I wouldn’t typically order a vegetarian dish as my main course, but the Dum Aloo was as hearty as any meat-centric plate. Masala spices, cream, onions, vegetables and saffron make up the pureed sauce, served over potatoes. It was dynamite!
The tender lamb Rogan Josh, lamb shank Kashmiri-style, is an ideal winter dish. It’s an aromatic stew with a reddish-brown gravy of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, and a dash of heat from the Kashmiri chiles. The lamb shank is slow-cooked for five to six hours, which explains why it so easily fell off the bone, making it hard to distinguish where the meat begins and the sauce ends; and the delicious spinach and goat cheese Kulcha was perfect for dipping. I highly recommend going with this option if you are looking for something more complex than a traditional naan.
Lastly, we tried the Tandoori Salmon topped with green mango chutney, over a bed of rice salad. It was nice and crispy on the outside, but I found the flavor of the fish too strong and the meat too tough.
For dessert, we ended off the meal with a traditional Indian sweet, warm Gulab Jamun. They are like small doughnut holes, milky and creamy in the center, and lightly fried then saturated with a sweet syrup that had the consistency of a thin, light honey. They were served with Ras Malai on the side—a creamy vanilla cottage cheese cake soaked in rose water and topped with coconut. The floral notes, paired with the honey in the Gulab Jamun, was lovely.
Kurry Qulture’s cocktail list is cleverly sectioned into three categories: bright, light and tight. Bright drinks are characterized with bubbles, light are on the sweeter side and easy-drinking, and tight being more of a stiff drink. The couple that I tried were fairly juicy to drink on their own and did the trick in cutting the heat of the spicier dishes. They’d be excellent in the summer in the outdoor patio.
36-05 30th Avenue
The writer dined as a guest of Kurry Qulture
All photos courtesy of Kurry Qulture/Kurry Qulture on Instagram