In Restaurantarama’s experience, it’s not unusual to walk through a parking lot and wonder to oneself, “What’s that smell?” Normally, the answer is not the kind of subject that is suitable to a dining column. But all that has changed since mid-August, when Alex George opened Just Curry, a place where the name says it all. Tucked into the alleyway next to Satellite Ballroom, George’s compact lunch-dinner joint has been filling the adjacent parking lot with delectable aromas six days a week.
And apparently the wafting scents of coriander, cinnamon and turmeric are doing their job. George says business has enjoyed a steady rise since students have returned to campus, bringing with them their craving for large quantities of flavorful food.
But, while the Corner may be crawling with hungry souls, they don’t come equipped with a bottomless wallet, which is probably another reason they’ve taken a liking to Just Curry. Dishes come in two sizes at the Caribbean-inflected eatery (yes, we said Caribbean—more on that in a moment): the $5 serving and the $8 serving. Tax included. “When I first was thinking about this, I couldn’t get a decent, filling lunch on the Mall for under 10 bucks,” George told us. He’s even priced his beverages with this inflationary trend in mind, featuring ginger beer or coconut juice for the bargain price of just $1.50. Load up with a large serving of beef or chicken curry plus a drink, and you still won’t crack a Hamilton.
O.K., getting back to the Caribbean influence at Just Curry: George is a native of Guyana, where, he tells Restaurantarama, the population is 55 percent South Indian. With an ancestry that includes Indian, Portuguese and Chinese forebears, George says he “grew up” on curries. Just Curry, then, is something of a venture home for him.
But you know how it is with going home—sometimes you take the long way. George’s return to curry began with a catering career in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., before he moved to New York and got trained at the French Culinary Institute. That eventually led to a decade of private chef-ing in the Big Apple. “There’s a huge demand for personal and private chefs in New York with some kind of French or Mediterranean background,” George explains. Eventually he became a private chef here in town and, though he won’t name the clan he worked for prior to opening Just Curry, George did answer in the affirmative when asked if it was a “fabulously well-known family” (Restaurantarama’s words, not his).
George stresses that he’s not trying to compete with any of the fine South Asian curry joints in town. In fact, to distinguish his dishes—which include something called “Butter Chicken” that sounded so rich Restaurantarama had to run a couple of miles after just hearing it described—George offers fried plantains and red beans and rice as side dishes.
Just Curry operates Monday-Friday, 11am-9pm, with Saturday hours from noon to 5pm. On Sunday we rest—or, depending on how much Butter Chicken we’ve been eating, we run a half-marathon!
Speaking of working it off, Restaurantarama has reserved September 18 as a day of indulgence. That’s when the Jewish women’s auxiliary organization known as Hadassah is throwing its cookbook launch party at Congregation Beth Israel on Jefferson Street. There will be plenty of restaurants in attendance (and maybe even Market Street Wine Shop) to represent for the recipes they’ve included in the fundraiser cookbook. The event begins at 7pm.
Among the delicious dishes included in the cookbook, by the way, is the Pumpkin and Virginia Bisque from L’etoile, Durban Spiced Chicken and Voodoo Sauce from The Shebeen, Old Fashioned Deep South Spoonbread from Chef Ted Catering, and Boneless Leg of Lamb, Stuffed with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Basil, and Oyster Mushrooms from Fuel. The Ivy Inn, C&O, Hotcakes and Al Dente are also in Hadassah’s book.
Pardon Restaurantarama while we loosen our belt!
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