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Curry Club
1734 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, DC
(202) 625-9090


You enter to find a tiny sitting area and a take-out counter... then up the narrow creaky stairs you go. Frankly, the downstairs looks a tad shabby, but here it's a different world. The décor is done up in modish reds & blacks, and silk cushions make the comfy banquettes even more inviting. Yes it's funky... funky and fun. Definitely something different... And you're so looking forward to the food. Unfortunately, if you enjoy the delightful nuances and diversities of Indian cuisine, you are destined to be disappointed.

The cuisine here like the décor is... well, yes... different. It's Indian all right, but Indian with a twist. It's Indian as it might be interpreted by a British chef for the American palate - a culinary oxymoron if ever there was one. Chef Chris Payton tries hard and occasionally succeeds - but those occasions are rare.

The Curry Club suffers from a restaurant malady that is all too common these days: Appetizers hold great promise... but the entrées fail to deliver the goods. Consider, if you will, the starters sampled during a recent visit. The fritters ($7.00), both the spiced onion and the spiced sweet pea, were subtle in presentation and superbly flavorful. In each case, three slightly larger than golf ball size golden brown orbs were placed at the center of a large plate and simply embellished with an excellent fresh tomato-mango chutney. Though deep fried, they were not at all greasy, and there was just enough heat to tantalize rather than traumatize the palate. So much for the good news...

Now for the entrées... In reality, however, my wife's chicken tikka masala ($19.00) wasn't bad. The morsels of chicken were sufficiently moist; and sauce, while not outstanding by any means, was still quite acceptable. My tandoori salmon ($19.00), on the other hand, was very nearly beneath contempt. Not only was it inordinately blackened but also completely lacking in flavor.

But there were other issues... Each main course included basmati rice and the diner's choice of two vegetables. But rather than exercising a certain amount of artistic acumen with regard to presentation, or having one or two served on the side, all three - along with the centers of attraction - were crowded together on the plate and looked like they'd been dropped from 20,000 feet.

Additionally, Mr. Payton is no doubt unfamiliar with William Cowper's famous axiom - "Variety's the very spice of life." - or has chosen to ignore it. All the vegetables are similarly seasoned and not terribly exciting. My wife's saag paneer (spinach in cheese sauce) was completely tasteless, and the mushroom curry was also disappointing. My channa masala (chic peas) weren't too bad, but the peas served up in an innocuous cream sauce were shrived.

Desserts, though, like the appetizers, were of excellent quality and nicely presented. The chocolate almond torte with brandy ($8.00) was decadently dense & chewy and embellished simply with a dollop of ice cream. And a combo of ginger and raspberry-chocolate chip ice creams ($6.00) was also quite good. No espresso here, but the coffee ($3.00) was rich and strong and presented at table in a French press.

How can a restaurant do such a first-rate job with appetizers and desserts and then send out entrées that leave so much to be desired? Beats me.

Bottom line: If I resided in the DC area, I would definitely not be paying another call here. For excellent Indian cuisine in the nation's capital, the Bombay Club (www.bombayclubdc.com) still remains my absolute favorite.

The Artful Diner
March 2008

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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