Luckily for us, the few purveyors of Indian food in Albuquerque are very good, and none may be better than Curry Leaf, on Montgomery NE.
Once inside, you’ll wonder why you’ve never been there before. The floor is expansive, with elegantly appointed tables and cool, modern pendant lamps. A long row of copper vessels along a buffet line greets guests upon entry, and white tablecloths give off a fine-dining vibe.
And the food is good.
I highly recommend the chicken makhani ($13.95), a standard Indian dish made with dark-meat chicken that is slow-cooked in a rich sauce of tomato, cream and a number of herbs and spices and served over rice.
Curry Leaf’s is the best I’ve ever had. This isn’t a large dish, and you won’t want to split it, but it’s certainly filling and well-worth the money. It had probably a little more flat-leaf parsley than is necessary, but everything else was literally perfect. And don’t be turned off by the “dark” meat in the dish; it’s so well-cooked and well-prepared you won’t encounter any bone or gristle fragments or connective tissue that snaps you out of your feast. This is fork-tender chicken in an amazingly savory and distinctive sauce.
Pair the dish with Indian bread, or naan, of which Curry Leaf serves several kinds. I recommend the (fantastically cheap) garlic naan ($2.95), which comes with three or four large, cooked-fresh slices smothered in heavenly garlic. Naan is such an essential component of an Indian meal, and fresh bread is such a singularly human enjoyment, don’t dare to order without it.
Unless you’re on a restricted diet, in which case, Curry Leaf has lots of options for you, both vegan and vegetarian. Nearly every dish has a vegetarian counterpart. You’ll even find the obligatory New Mexico green chile option on an item or two.
Service is great, although an employee started vacuuming the floors so close to my feet that I had to check my shoelaces. Otherwise, don’t expect stuffy or lagging service. This place runs like a machine.
Lunch service includes a buffet, and even kids or picky eaters can find something they like. Many kids would love vegetable pakoras ($2.95), deep-fried balls of cauliflower dough mixed with veggies and then deep-fried so they’ll never know they’re actually eating cauliflower.
Curry Leaf shares a building with another restaurant and a bar, and all three appear to be a credit to their neighborhood: late on a Sunday night, the parking lot and dining rooms were full.
Indian food doesn’t get its due in Albuquerque, both because it’s a rarity and because New Mexican food shines so brightly. But when you’re in the mood for something you don’t eat every day, and you need a night off from cooking, let Curry Leaf do the dishes.
Indian cuisine is so much more than curries and lentils. There’s literally another world of exotic spices and flavors on the other side of the world, and you can find a lot of them at Curry Leaf.
3 1/2 stars