Flatiron Lunch: Your Eyes and Stomach Order for You at Curry Express
Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
With so many options in Curry Hill, everyone has their favorite or, really, favorites. Favorite dosas. Favorite buffet to stay and eat. Favorite thali set. Favorite kathi roll. Favorite take out. Favorite all-round (mine is still Bhatti). With such a high density of Indian restaurants in a couple blocks, it is totally reasonable to have a different favorite in every category in just Curry Hill. Curry Express has always been my favorite for buffet-style take-out. It strikes me as a little bit cheaper and more laid back than Curry In A Hurry.
Curry Express is exactly as it seems with a counter behind glass of steaming hot Indian curries and a few tables. When my office was a block away, it was always a crowd-pleaser. Because of the reasonable prices, seats were always available, and everyone could find a curry or two they wanted to try. I valued being able to make a game-time decision while standing in front of all my options. Sometimes a dish just speaks to you, and you don’t know if you have to decide in advance or if you can’t see your options. (You might be able to see my friend’s hand in the above photo animatedly pointing during his decision-making.)
Beyond the TV, behind the counter showing Indian music videos, there is nothing notable or exciting about the interior at Curry Express. It is a little grimy, but no more or less than its neighbors down Lexington.
They have a few different combo platters, including a daily vegetarian set lunch special that changes slightly each day and includes three veggie curries, rice and naan for $6.50. Cabbage and cheese, mushroom and peas, and spinach were the featured dishes when I was there most recently. If you decide to forgo the set special, you can still get three veggie curries on rice for $6 and a piece of naan will run you $1.25 more. The non-veg combos range in price from $7.00 to $7.95.
They have done an interesting pricing trick with chicken tikka masala that I have noticed elsewhere as well – they charge more for chicken tikka masala than other chicken curries. I totally understand why this do it. Since the people ordering chicken tikka masala are often not Indian food traditionalists and prefer all white meat, so why not charge more?
That being said, I have a weakness for the creamy richness of chicken tikka masala, so I ordered that combo with saag (spinach) and aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) for $7.95 with a naan. The regular chicken curry combo would have been $7.00. Compared to previous visits to Curry Express, the chicken tikka masala was too sweet and watery. I am not sure if it was just the batch that day or if the quality is slipping. The two veggie curries were both outstanding with the saag having a really strong spinach flavor, which I loved.
It seems like all of the bread items (naan, roti, paratha, etc) are all made to order, so they come out piping hot with a layer of melting butter. But it also takes a minute or two to prepare, so it is best if you tell them right away so it is ready when you are ready to dig in or walk back to your office.
My friend ordered the goat curry combo with lentils and cabbage and cheese curry for $7.95. The goat had a mild goat flavor which was well-balanced throughout the dish. The lentils were flavorful and not watery. They were even better on the roti ($1.25), but the roti on its own was very dry. The cabbage and paneer had a distinct turmeric flavor and color, in a good way, that is if you like turmeric.
Even with a slight price increase since my last visit, Curry Express still is a great value. There might be better values in Curry Hill, and I am more than happy to keep exploring for science…yes, science. Since I have never been able to finish my Curry Express meal in one sitting, I still think it is still reasonably priced for the portions. And there is nothing wrong in my book with having curry leftovers for lunch the next day! Additionally, with the chicken tikka masala slipping, that might be additional motivation to branch out. Recommendations in the comments welcome! Or I could diversify more regularly from chicken tikka masala to other curries. With goat, fish, chicken and eight different vegetable curries, Curry Express consistently offers a nice selection.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Look and point is the way food should be ordered. Your eyes tells your stomach what it wants.
- Curry Express has a nice balance of standard and rotating dishes, so there are always more combos to try.
- I love the deep spinach flavor of the saag curry.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- If they can’t get chicken tikka masala right, what is the hope for their other dishes?
- It is far from the best value in Curry Hill, and the naan should be included with the combo.
- The lack of inspiring decor is mirrored in the uninspired cuisine.
Curry Express, 130 East 29th Street, southeast corner of Lexington Avenue, (212) 251-0202