Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant Offers a Taste of Southern India

Last modified on August 2nd, 2017 at 10:27 am

Lamb Biriyani and assorted dishes at Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Tucked away in an East Grant Road shopping plaza near Tucson Boulevard, Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant has finally come into its own.

Prasad Kakarala first opened Bombay Grill in 2005, and he changed the restaurant’s name to Amrutha a couple of years later. Though “Amrutha” means “immortal drinks or nectar of the gods” in Indian, the lack of name recognition dissuaded diners from flocking to the restaurant.

So, in 2011, the name was changed to Curry Leaf. Four years later, Kakarala decided to hand over the reins to his son, Nish, a University of Arizona law student.

Curry Leaf’s cozy dining room includes five booths and five tables with white tablecloths that can seat up 40. Indian music is piped inside, and an outdoor patio includes three small tables.

The senior Kakarala still is involved in the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, including occasionally cooking and serving as the always jovial front-of-house presence. His ebullient style and careful explanations of the dishes puts new diners at ease – especially those unfamiliar with Indian food.

Vegetable Samosas at Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Vegetable Samosas at Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

In June, the duo decided to add a few new dishes to their menu, including the chana masala. Drinkers will be happy to hear that Curry Leaf now serves alcohol, including beers from India.

Back to the chana masala. At a reasonable $7 for lunch and $9 for dinner, it’s a hearty chickpea dish cooked in a medium-spiced curry sauce that often will result in a takeout box. Despite its deliciousness, Kakarala said the dish always has been a top seller and is high in protein and fiber while being low-fat.

Lunch entrees range from $6 to $9 overall, and dinner entrees cost from $9 to $16.

Like many Indian restaurants, Curry Leaf’s menu features an assortment of vegan and vegetarian dishes, including palaak paneer, which is spinach and cubes of cheese cooked in an onion sauce and the creamy Navaratan Korma, which is vegetables cooked with cashews and raisins. That’s because Curry Leaf specializes in Southern Indian food, which tends to celebrate vegetables and features rice over the wheat favored by Northern Indian dishes.

When comparing Northern and Southern Indian dals and curries, the Southern versions are soupier and often spicier.

Paalak Paneer and Green Bean & Carrot Curry at Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Paalak Paneer and Green Bean & Carrot Curry at Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Finish your meal with an order of rice pudding ($3). The silky sweet mixture includes bits of cardamom powder, coconut and cashews. It’s a tasty ending to an authentic meal.

Curry Leaf Indian Restaurant is located at 2510 E. Grant Rd. For more information, call (520) 881-2786 or visit curryleaftucson.com.

Valerie Vinyard has written for newspapers and magazines for over 20 years, including a stint as a food writer and critic for the Arizona Daily Star. The Cleveland native has lived in Tucson more than 15 years, and still dines out daily.