The Curry Club in Hicksville proved an ideal spot to introduce a finicky friend to the spirited and complex cuisine of India. The offshoot of an East Setauket standby is quiet and attractive, its attentive crew eager to offer menu suggestions.
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My pal's dinner starts with sweet corn soup, deeply flavorful and subtly spicy. I taste it and smile. After one hesitant spoonful, he proceeds to polish off the bowl. There are more soup stars: mulligatawny with chicken, at once piquant and soothing as well as garlic tomato, positively resonant.
A kebab appetizer assortment -- ideal for sharing -- showcases all manner of juicy grilled chicken and lamb. But it's the entree known as chooza kebab that features my kind of chicken: dark meat. The boneless chunks are marinated in a blend of yogurt and spices, grilled and served, sizzling, on a metal plate with onions and peppers. My newly converted friend takes a chance on a Karachi kadai curry from Pakistan. It turns out to be delectable, done with big chunks of white meat (his preference) in a thick gravy of peppers, tomatoes, onions and chili.
A subsequent visit uncovers more thrills. Lamb vindaloo, a hot-sweet-sour specialty of Goa, has enough heat to electrify without scorching the palate. I'm a big fan of the saag paneer, a rich spinach curry with cubes of homemade "cottage" cheese. It pairs well with the restaurant's irresistible breads -- onion kulcha, garlic naan, mint paratha, among standouts. Then, there's biryani Nawabi, a compelling rice dish studded with dried fruit, nuts and pieces of boneless chicken.
Fitting conclusions: gulab jamon (warm fried milk balls in rosewater syrup) and creamy, fragrant rice pudding.
Vegetable samosas (turnovers) are leaden. And the otherwise fine, flavorsome chili shrimp (an Indian-Chinese dish) is weighted down by breading.
Neophytes and adventurers alike will want to sign up for this club.