If you’ve always wanted to eat at a Sri Lankan restaurant located between a lacrosse store and a H&R Block then Rosemount, a southern suburb of the Twin Cities, is the place you want to be. Lucky for you, House of Curry also serves very good food. And despite the name they’re anything but a standard curry house (and heaven knows, we have enough of those).
As those who’ve been following my weekly food reviews may recall, in September I launched a slow-motion survey of Indian/South Asian food in the greater Twin Cities metro area. Prior stops have included Bawarchi, Dosa King and Malabari Kitchen, and the experience has been variable. One of the sources of recommendations that I’ve used is the Minneapolis-St. Paul forum on Chowhound, which steered me both to Bawarchi (good) and to Dosa King (very, very not good). Thus I was not entirely sure about House of Curry even though it was recommended highly by everyone who mentioned it. However, its relative proximity (we live 20 minutes south) and its sudden raised profile (apparently MSP magazine has listed it among its best restaurants for 2014*) overcame our trepidation. And a good thing too.
The restaurant opened 10 months or so ago and is owned by a Sri Lankan family—a middle-aged gent runs the front of the house and the kitchen seems to be entirely the province of the lady. There was a younger man as well who took our order and then disappeared into the kitchen and was not seen again—presumably he’s an all-rounder. It’s their first restaurant and it’s hard not to root for them to succeed—this both because they’re very nice people (we spent some time talking to them) and because the food is very good and very much feels like high quality home cooking. It’s a nice bright space and the food is presented well with an eye to visual appeal. I’m not as sure about the loud music that was playing (mostly Sinhalese lyrics over 1950s/60s Hindi film tunes).
As to whether they will succeed seems to be an open question at this time. We were there for lunch on a Friday and were the only customers the entire time. It does appear that they do more brisk business on the weekends but it seems hard to imagine it being sustainable without reliable weekday lunch business (then again, we may have been there on an anomalous afternoon). Complicating matters, there isn’t a large Sri Lankan population in the Twin Cities area—though they said they get a lot of South Indians (of whom there are a growing number, especially in the southern suburbs). It’s also the case that they don’t serve the North Indian curry house classics (no dal makhni, saag paneer or chicken tikka masala here) which are usually the mainstays of buffet lunches at most Indian restaurants and would presumably be looked for by most locals looking to eat at a house of curry.
And speaking of the buffet, there no longer is one on weekdays (though their takeout menu lists one). They said they scuttled it as they didn’t always have enough people coming in to justify the food being laid out (which also suggests that perhaps our solitary meal was not an anomaly). There is a buffet on the weekend—in fact lunch is buffet only on the weekend. While Sri Lankan food can be very hot they said that items for the buffet are prepared at a mild setting with hot sauces and condiments available on the side for those who want to spike their food. Food ordered a la carte can be asked for mild or at various heat settings. I have to say that while we asked for everything that wasn’t meant to be mild to be prepared at a high heat level nothing came close to being unmanageable—if not for one of the hot sambols we wouldn’t have broken a sweat. All of it was quite good though, and I can’t remember the last time I said that about the food at any South Asian restaurant in the US.
Hopefully, the MSP mag publicity will drive more people their way, especially on weekdays. We’re certainly telling all our friends. There is no force on earth that could make me want to eat at the Indian restaurant in our town but I’d be happy to drive 20 minutes each way to eat at House of Curry.
What we ate (click on an image below to launch a slideshow with larger images and descriptions of the dishes):
We also got their basic chicken curry (quite nice) which I unaccountably failed to photograph (as with the dal it tasted like you’d expect to eat in the home of a very good cook). All of this came to $75 with tax and tip. There were just the two of us eating and while portion sizes are not huge it was probably enough food for five people to eat well—so, $15/head, which is a screaming deal (we brought leftovers home). Service was very pleasant. Of course, we were the only ones there so I have no idea what it’s like when it’s a fuller house. It’s also possible I suppose that execution in the kitchen could be more ragged with more tables being served but everything we ate was cooked with far greater care and with a more deft touch than you’ll see at your average curry house—as I said a number of times now, the food tasted like high quality home cooking: not oily, not awash in cream or nut pastes, all the flavours in good balance. (It is true that we didn’t eat anything with coconut milk.) Anyway, we’ll be back soon, and I recommend highly that you go if you haven’t already.