Fine dining has come to West End Plaza with the opening of Curry Mantra 2 last month. The restaurant joins the original Curry Mantra, located in the City of Fairfax, in this growing Indian cuisine enterprise of owner and Bombay native Asad Sheikh, which will soon expand to include a restaurant in Vienna.
A valet parking stand outside the restaurant gives the first impression that the dining experience at Curry Mantra 2 will differ from the fast-casual eateries in the plaza. Inside, the smells of exotic spices and the sights and sounds of an open kitchen greet customers, a contrast to the calm and quiet of the adjacent dining room. The small dining space, its walls decorated in tiny colorful tiles, is filled with white-clothed tables and tall-backed leather chairs beneath ornate chandeliers.
The exposed kitchen and the elegant dining room are pieces of a thoughtfully crafted dining experience, and so too is the menu. It does more than list the various dishes of Indian cuisine one might order; it tells a story. Sheikh’s childhood selling potato patty sandwiches at his father’s food stand, and the foods he enjoyed made by his mother (and her visits with his staff to recreate those beloved meals), are some of the charming personal vignettes found within the menu’s pages. The regions of origin are listed for many of the entrees, and the recurring phrase “must try” is a nudge toward certain selections on the menu.
The Palak Anar ($7) is one such recommended appetizer. Here, crackling pieces of crispy spinach are served with little dots of pomegranate. It is an interesting dish of contrasts, the green of the spinach against the red pomegranate, the earthy taste of the greens against the sweet fruit, and the dry crunch of the leaves against the juicy pop of each tiny seed. The Vada Pav ($7) sandwiches of Sheikh’s youth are also suggested, a tall and spicy vegetable patty with chunks of potato situated on a bun.
Entrees include meat and vegetable curries and various clay oven-cooked dishes, with house specialties and the most popular curries of Indian cuisine highlighted.
The Chicken Badami ($18), one of the house specialties, is a surprising dish. Unlike the unrestrained heat of vindaloos and other peppery curries of note, the Chicken Badami is subtle and sweet. The dish serves chunks of tender chicken in a pale garlic gravy, spiced with cinnamon and ginger, and the sweetness of almond. The dish is plated extravagantly; the thick sauce is served in a glass bowl, joined by a shaped stack of seasoned rice and a chickpea salad.
The Kofta Curry ($19) brings the familiar heat from Indian food, but in an unexpected way. A few large minced lamb balls with a crisp shell conceal a boiled egg at their center. The rounds of spicy lamb are covered in a creamy red curry sauce that, while spicy, brings some sweetness to the dish.
Curry Mantra 2 is something different for West End Plaza, and may be something different for diners not familiar with the preferred curry recipes of Goa, Punjab, and Delhi. But different is exciting, especially in the case of this new restaurant. Its eclectic cuisine can satisfy the worldly traveler or the novice and will offer both a culinary adventure.
Curry Mantra 2 is located at 1077 W. Broad St., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-992-0077 or visit currymantra2.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 5 – 10 p.m.