Curry Dreams’ $4.95 Lunch Box Special Gets Expensive Fast

When it gets hot outside, I get in the mood for really hot, spicy curry. It might sound counterintuitive that eating spicy food cools you off. For all I know, it might even be a myth. I just use it as an excuse to eat more peppers. So when I passed by Curry Dreams (39th btw. 5th + 6th) where Zach tried back in 2008 when it was Curry Dream, and I saw that they had a $4.95 lunch box special, I thought I’d give it a shot. I mean, you can’t beat $4.95 for a Midtown lunch, right?

It didn’t look very crowded, but I thought it could’ve been because they hadn’t turned on the air conditioning in the restaurant and it was unbearably hot. I wanted to see what this cheap lunch box was all about so I braved it! Unfortunately, I was in for a bit of a surprise because the lunch box special has some odd “rules”. First, the lunch box special must be taken from their all-you-can-eat buffet, which I normally shy away from at Indian restaurants because they just don’t make it spicy enough for me. I understand you have to tame it down for American tastes, especially on a buffet, but I’m accustomed to British style curries where they really make it hot. And what’s up with this ridiculous practice in New York City Indian restaurants when you ask for them for something to spice up your food at a buffet and they give you a whole chile pepper??? What the hell am I supposed to do with this, attempt to chop it up with this dull knife and sprinkle it on? Take a bite of food and then a bite of pepper? I really don’t get it.

But I digress. I thought the buffet looked good, with nice looking chutneys, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, goat curry, aloo gobi, saag paneer, and a few other options. If you want meat, you choose one meat and one veggie item. But then I learned you aren’t allowed to fill up your lunch box yourself, you tell them what meat and what veg and they fill up a styrofoam box for you. I went for the chicken tikka masala and the saag paneer.

When it was time to pay, I then found out that it’s an extra dollar if you want one meat item, making it $5.95, and an extra dollar if you happen to want chicken tikka masala. I didn’t quite understand why the chicken tikka masala was extra but not the chicken tandoori. Whatever. But now we’re at $6.95 with the tikka masala. And if you want “extra naan” or rice it’s yet another dollar, but I was unclear if you even get naan in the first place. They didn’t give me any until they saw me taking pictures and realized I was there to write a story. With tax, I nearly paid eight dollars for my lunch box. Duped!

I took the lunch box back to my office, and I realized that they had forgotten to put the whole chile pepper they had promised me into the bag. I was really sad, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with said pepper. They had only put four pieces of chicken from the tikka masala in the box, but there was plenty of rice and palak paneer. (Pardon the food runoff in the picture, it leaked a bit on the walk back.) I will try my best to comment on the taste of the food without being snarky, because I was deeply disappointed about the lack of spice. The chicken was ok. It wasn’t as moist as I’ve had at other Indian restaurants and the sauce was a little too runny. I didn’t like the the saag paneer (spinach and cheese curry) at first, but it grew on me. I think it could’ve used some more paneer; there were just tiny little bits of white cheese in the mix. The rice was cooked well and the naan was very nice with the chutneys. As meh as this sounds, I did eat all of it, so I guess it wasn’t too bad and I was full afterward.

So, all in all, the lunch box did the job but it’s probably not worth the money. If you’re going to try out this special, go for the vegetarian option and if you want it spicy, bring your own pepper.

Curry Dreams, 66 West 39th Street, (212) 810-4125


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    The description said rice or nan, so $1 extra if you want an extra serving of either. Packing take-out food from the buffet line is probably an economic way for the restaurant not to ‘waste’ too much food at the end of the day. But really, lunch buffet isn’t a popular choice for Midtown workers (time restraint and ‘food coma’). Btw, it’s a known fact that eating spicy foods can cool your body. Just look at Thai, Indian, and Malaysian dishes. :)

  • Eating a chile on the side is a common compromise. Even Mexican vendors/places do this. You take a bite at the same time. Rice prices are high, as is wheat. Many places started up charging for naan years ago, although chicken tikka masala, is usually the cheapest item on a menu.

  • For eight bucks you can get a heavy serving of chicken tikka masala AND a samosa, or a curry chicken AND a double at Trini Paki Boys!

  • I completely agree with you about Trini Paki Boys, EaterKnievel. Yummers.

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