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Naan ‘n Curry

September 30, 2006

UPDATE (May 1, 2007): Since we wrote this post, another branch of Naan ‘n Curry has opened at the corner of Turk and Van Ness. That restaurant is not reviewed in this post, nor does the contact information of the restaurant appear at the end of this post. Please click here to read our separate review of the Van Ness branch of Naan ‘n Curry. The original post follows below.

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PLEASE NOTE: We’ve been to several of the Naan ‘n Curry branches (actually, to all of them, we think, at some point or another), and in general, it seems like the quality of the food and overall dining experience is fairly similar from one to the next — similar enough that it seemed fair enough to essentially review all locations simultaneously. Obviously, experiences vary, but on average, all the different branches would get the same star rating anyway. So we’ve filed this review in all the appropriate neighborhoods. The featured location in this review is the new Union Square branch, but to help you out — we’ve compiled the addresses and contact information for Naan ‘n Curry’s other locations. All addresses are listed at the end of the review.

Naan ‘n Curry is a chain of several BYOB joints in San Francisco and Berkeley, well-loved by Bay Area citizens on both sides of the bay for its giant naan and filling curries, all offered at great bargain prices — many dishes are just a few dollars, and a huge circle of naan is only $1.00. The protocol is very casual: order and pay at the counter, and sit at the numbered tables to wait until the food is brought out. You set your own table with silverware and napkins, and the fridges are full of plentiful water that you can grab as you need it.

Naan ‘n Curry’s original (and typically, its best) location was located on O’Farrell, in the Tandorlooin. Recently, though, they’ve closed this original branch, and opened a new one just a block down O’Farrell, closer to Market Street, in the location of the former, the now (happily) defunct Niko Niko Sushi. This one block move, however, was enough to move them officially out of the Tenderloin and into the fold of Union Square, and the Union Square location, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has the dark, mahogany tables to match its fashionable new locale. It is a Naan ‘n Curry, though, so this probably about as much style as we have the right to expect.

On this occasion, Short Exact and a friend shared the palak paneer,

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which was excessively runny, as the curries here so often seem to be, though thankfully it was saved from the ridiculous pools (who are we kidding? it’s more like entire reservoirs) of grease and oil that often seem to characterize their dishes (although it was still quite oily). Unfortunately, despite the fact that we specifically requested extra heat, this dish was not the least bit hot — and the curry had no subtle layering. All in all, this seemed to be only a rough approximation of what a truly excellent palak paneer should taste like, and if I had to use one word to describe it, that word would be bland — a word one should never use when describing a curry, of all things. If you’re having a desperate craving, this will do, but don’t expect too much. Based on this dish, we think that the quality declined when they moved one block down O’Farrell, but it’s really difficult to tell this from just the one visit.

On another occasion, Short Exact visited what is now the only branch of Naan ‘n Curry remaining in the Tenderloin, the branch at Eddy and Leavenworth. (Note: this branch is not open 24 hours a day, like the Union Square one is.) We ordered the aloo gobhi,

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which features small bits of cauliflower and large chunks of potato, all bathing in — as you can see from the above picture — one of those oily reservoirs that typifies the Naan ‘n Curry preparations at all their locations, really. With its unattractive plating and lackluster ingredients, this dish did not impress. Although it at least did not suffer from the lack of heat that our palak paneer at the Union Square location did, the curry here grated very harshly against the flavor of the cauliflower and potato: the dish never really unified; it simply happened to contain curry and some vegetables that were ill-suited to be paired together.

We’re well-aware of how popular Naan ‘n Curry is both in San Francisco and the East Bay. It attracts a fiercely loyal following, and given how popular it is, it’s difficult not to go to one location or another at least every once in awhile. Short Exact has certainly been our fair share of times as well, but quite frankly, we’re a bit fed up with how many times we’ve heard claims that this is the “best Indian food in the Bay Area” — which it really isn’t, not by a long shot. Short Exact understands this review may be a bit controversial, but it seems all the more important to write, because of that.

Suppose it’s 2:00 am. You’ve just been hanging out at a dive bar on Geary, or perhaps a more stylish, posh destination in North Beach, if that’s your scene. In any case, the locale of your revelry has just closed and has kicked you out for the night. All liquored up (while your liver wonders what it did to deserve the punishment you just gave it) you stumble onto the sidewalk and realize you’re hungry. But this is San Francisco, not New York (“The City That Never Sleeps”), so it’s not like you can get real food at this hour. Or can you? In a situation like this, Short Exact completely understands how at least Naan ‘n Curry’s Union Square location could be a godsend. Curry at 2:00 am is certainly an excellent way to top off a night of revelry, and at this point, you can probably barely taste the food anyway, so you won’t notice the fact that it’s flooded in grease and completely lacking in flavor.

But the best Indian food in the Bay Area? Hardly: let’s be reasonable about this. Truly excellent Indian food positively bursts with outstanding flavors, and can dazzle the taste buds. In all our visits, Naan ‘n Curry has never come close to attaining this elusive ideal. To be honest, the two dishes we’ve discussed in this review gives a bit of an unfairly negative impression of Naan ‘n Curry (although they just happened to be a report of our most recent visits). The quality of the dishes really does vary; it’s often greasy, but they can and do pull off decently tasty curries. Unfortunately, though, it is inconsistent and undependable: you can think of our 1.5 star rating as a sort of average of many different dishes over the years, at their various locations. The food is not horrible, but it would never be our first choice for Indian food. In general, Naan ‘n Curry preparations simply do not feature the fresh ingredients, vibrant spices, and the subtly-layered curries that other restaurants offer, if at slightly more expensive prices. All we’re saying here is: why bother, when we can do better? It’s not like this is the only Pakistani joint in town.

Sorry Naan ‘n Curry: we love that you’re open 24 hours a day, but sadly, you’re no Little Delhi.

RATING:

COST:

FEATURED LOCATION:
336 O’Farrell Street (between Mason St. and Taylor St. )
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.346.1443
Hours: Daily, 24 hours per day.

Cuisine: Indian/Pakistani
Neighborhood: Union Square

How to get there: The O’Farrell Street location of Naan ‘n Curry is located right on Muni lines 27 and 38, and is within easy walking distance of lines 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 21, 30, 31, 45, 71, 76, F, J, K, L, M, N, T, and the Powell-Hyde/Powell-Mason cable car lines. The restaurant is 3-4 blocks from the Powell BART/Muni subway station.

NAAN ‘n CURRY’S OTHER LOCATIONS:

[Tenderloin]
398 Eddy Street (at Leavenworth St. )
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.775.1349
Hours: Daily, 11:30 am – 10:00 pm.
How to get there: Muni lines 2, 3, 4, 5, 19, 27, 31, 38, 47, and 49. Civic Center BART/Muni station is 4-5 blocks away.

[North Beach]
533 Jackson Street (at Columbus Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone: 415.693.0499
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11:00 am – 11:30 pm; Sat-Sun, 12 noon – 11:30 pm.
How to get there: Muni lines 1, 9X, 10, 12, 30, 41, and 45.

[Inner Sunset]
642 Irving Street (between 7th Ave. and 8th Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Phone: 415.664.7225
Hours: Daily, 11:00 am- 12 midnight.
How to get there: Muni lines 6, 43, 44, 66, 71, and N.

[Southside]
2366 Telegraph Avenue (between Durant Ave. and Channing Way)
Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: 510.841.6226
Hours: Daily, 11:00 am- 10:30 pm.
How to get there: AC Transit lines 7, 40, 43, 51, and 52. Downtown Berkeley BART station is 6 blocks away.

[Elmwood: This location is called House of Curries.]
2984 College Avenue (between Ashby Ave. and Webster St.)
Berkeley, CA 94705
Phone: 510.841.1688
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11:00 am – 10:00 pm; Fri-Sun, 11:00 am – 10:30 pm.
How to get there: AC Transit lines 9 and 51. The Rockridge BART station is about 1 mile away.

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5 comments

  1. this post made me hungry! glad i found your site… may add a link, if that’s okay with you.


  2. Gluten Free: thanks for dropping by! Of course, a link is fine, and if you’re now hungry, I guess my work is done 🙂


  3. What’s funny is I didn’t read the text, just saw the pictures. THe text (runny palak paneer? Ew!) actually makes the food sound not so good… Haha.


  4. Haha…unfortunately, neither of the two above meals were especially good — though I guess that the “food porn” is always fun, in any case. However, you might want to check out the Little Delhi post for pictures from a much more delicious Indian meal!


  5. Naan ‘n Curry is my fav for quick, delicious Indian food in San Francisco. I have been to 3 of the 4 SF locations, (excluding North Beach) and the new 24-hour O’Farrell location taste the freshest, hottest and most flavorful to my palate. Late night cravings satisfied at last!



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