By Suzanne Parker
Usually when contemplating an Indian dining experience in Queens, our expectation is of a tasty, modestly priced meal in unpretentious surroundings.
Kurry Qulture in Astoria is doing its best to upend that image by offering Indian fine dining.
Owner and Astoria resident Sonny Solomon brings his experience of having owned two Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurants, Devi and Tulsi.
He has partnered with his Jackson Heights guy, Chef Hemant Mathur, who previously helmed the two aforementioned kitchens, to conceive the menu. Chef Ravi Bisht, who executes the menu, completes the team.
Careful attention was paid to Kurry Qulture’s interior design.
Its cultural roots with are acknowledged with a wall of wrapped-canvas photos of stunning Indian scenes. No Indian tchotchkes, unmatched hand-me-downs or tacky touches to be seen. Very classy.
The service complemented the ambiance with servers who pay plenty of attention to both patrons and details.
Right now Kurry Qulture is offering a three-course prix fixe menu ($33) and a bar menu of small plates.
The food could be described as nouvelle Indian, artfully plated.
A complimentary mini ramekin of savory lentil soup preceded our order. Little extras are always welcome.
We started with an order of samosas from the bar menu. Samosas are our dining companion’s gold standard for Indian food, and he gave this trio of traditional toothsome pyramids an emphatic thumbs up.
From the prix fixe, we selected Shakarkandi Ki Chaat and Lamb Stuffed Tandoori Chicken. The chaat, composed of cubes of sweet potato, roasted cumin powder, lemon juice and tamarind chutney, exceeded our expectations with its interplay of sweet and exotic flavors. The chicken, stuffed with minced lamb, cheese, yogurt marinade and tomato chutney went in the opposite direction.
What sounded so enticing on the menu was unappealingly dry, and not as hot in temperature as it should have been.
A fragrant basket of naan arrived to herald our entrées. Wait — is there anything that isn’t fragrant in an Indian restaurant? That being said, the naan was first rate.
Rogan josh, one of our chosen mains, is a dish that is Persian in origin, brought to Kashmir by the Mughals. The color of its characteristically red sauce is derived from de-seeded Kashmiri chilies which are relatively mild, and further flavored with ginger and garlic. Although lamb chunks are more typical, here the dish is made with a meaty lamb shank that is fork tender. The subtle interplay of flavors make this a particularly satisfying dish.
Our other main, Spicy Goan Scallops in Balchao, sauce traces its roots to Portugal. Pungent Balchao sauce has a slightly pickled flavor along with its heat. Here the scallops are arranged in a row on a bed of balchao, resting on springs of crispy fried onions. Four plump scallops were joined by three items that appeared to be tater tots. The sauce and onions had a nice, tart zing, but, sadly, the scallops were cooked a bit too long and were consequently dry.
Dessert, part of the deal, is a handsome trio of Indian sweets. They are riffs on western sweets like bread pudding and crème brulee, but with Indian spices.
The Bottom Line
The menu at Kurry Qulture is more ambitious than the usual. Great care is taken with the food, service, and ambiance. Yes, it’s pricey for an Indian restaurant, but in line with, or slightly less expensive than a comparably upscale Italian restaurant. You can take someone here whom you want to impress, or curry favor.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo
36-05 30th Ave.
Price Range: Prix fixe $33
Cuisine: Nouvelle Indian
Setting: Stylishly decorated with a nod to the subcontinent
Service: Professional and attentive
Hours: Open seven days 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., bar open until midnight
Reservations: Phone or e-mail reser
Alcohol: Full bar
Dress: Casual to dressy
Music: Recorded Indian pop
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes