Temi: Neither of us can have friends in town and not drag them on one of our blogging adventures. This time the adventure was Naan-n-Curry. Even though Naan n Curry has been part of the Seattle food community for over 10 years, they opened their second location in Issaquah about 3 months ago.
Mari: We were invited to visit by Shan Janjua, Head chef/team member of the Issaquah location. This Naan n Curry location has a do-it-yourself serving style. The menu is up on a wall, you decide want you want and then you go up to the counter and order. Cups, plates and all that other jazz is available for you to grab from a shelf on the back wall. Although the menu wasn't intensive, we weren't sure what to order other than the biryani since it's a must have at any Pakistani restaurant. Luckily for us, Shan was there and graciously offered to surprise us with the dishes he thought we would enjoy the best. We accepted.
Temi: We started off with Mango Lassi and while our food was being prepared, we chatted with Shan about Naan-n-Curry and his story. Growing up, Shan was always around food. When it was time to make a career choice though, he went the business route and hated it. Ultimately, it was his parents love for cooking that had him quitting his job and joining the family business. Quick sidetrack, Naan-n-Curry serves Pakistani and Indian food. Keyword being Pakistani. There is a tendency for diners to lump Pakistani food under the Indian cuisine umbrella. Naan n Curry is trying to end that trend. All their food has a Pakistani influence plus the whole menu is halal.
Mari: While Shan is the brains behind the operation for the Issaquah location, his dad is the one that actually opened the OG Renton location. Naan n Curry wasn't his dad's first rodeo though. He had owned a restaurant in Cali that wasn't exactly the success story that Naan n Curry has become. Shan's dad didn't just bring the lessons he learned from Cali when opening this restaurant, he also brought the name from a family friend's restaurant in Cali. Back in the day they had worked for him and in thanks/tribute they offered their restaurant name if he ever wanted to use it. Use it he did.
Temi: Speaking of Shan's dad, all the recipes are his. This leads me to which of these recipes ended up on our table. Our surprise dishes included the Fish Tandoori, Plain and Garlic Naan, Chana Masala, Haleem, Chicken Karahi, Malai Boti and of course the popular Lamb Dumm Biryani. It was more than enough for the 4 of us. The first thing I tried was the Haleem. I tried it first because on initial appearance it looked like brown porridge and in my head I was thinking just try it and be done. I dipped my naan into it, and wait a minute, is that meat I taste? SURPRISE! The Haleem came clutch! It was meaty, well-flavored and very wholesome. I had to remind myself to try the other dishes because I would easily have been full eating just that. After the fact, I learned Haleem is slow-cooked lentils with mutton and other spices.
Mari: Unlike Temi, I'm well versed in Pakistani cuisine considering Pakistan is the motherland of my folks. That also means I am pretty critical because it is hard to beat my grandma's cooking. That being said, this food was the best Pakistani food I have had in my four years in Seattle. The biryani was EVERYTHING! The lamb was tender, the rice was spicy , and my favorite part was the star anise infused in the rice. Each bite had a rosy undertone to it. The Haleem was also on point. I usually don't like that much ginger or fried onion on top but lowkey I might start putting more of it when I eat it at home.
Temi: The chana masala was a pleasant surprise, it had a nice kick which I appreciated. I'm usually not a fan of chickpeas, but the chana made me a convert for the evening. On the other hand, I wasn’t in love with the fish tandoori. It had all the right elements, the fish was well flavored and tender, but the skin was a bit rubbery and that texture took away from the overall fish experience.
Mari: The chicken karahi admittedly had my heart saying yes, but my head saying uh what? It was creamy and sweet like butter chicken with the tangy tomato taste as a base. The dish was delicious, so much so I took the curry home even though there was no chicken left. I think I was thrown off because karahi (wok) dishes are usually not creamy, but rather lightly sauced chicken, sautéed with tomato, herbs, and spices. Shan filled me in that they've made the dish more creamy to appeal to diner's expectations of a more Indian style curry. Conversely the Malai Boti was marinated and grilled to a T, but in the midst of other great contenders it didn’t really stand out to me.
Temi: What I loved was that Shan wasn’t afraid to ask our thoughts after the meal. We spent a good 30 minutes talking to him about what you're reading in this post. It was great because it gave me, with no real knowledge of Pakistani food, more insight into the style and flavor of the dishes. He and Mari also had a chance to delve into his culinary choices and share war stories on owning a family restaurant. Throughout our visit, I could see Shan's passion and love for his restaurant. It's this passion, delicious food aside, that will have me telling friends about Naan n Curry cause I know there is love behind every dish.
Naan-n-Curry Issaquah is a no frills establishment. You can tell as soon as you walk in that their focus is on the food. That was no problem with us because their food was GOOD! We got Mango Lassi, both Plain and Garlic Naan, Chana Masala, Haleem, Chicken Karahi, Mali Boti, Fish Tandoori and Lamb Dumm Biryani. It's no surprise that we were fully in food coma mode after our meal. All the food was flavorful, with a good spicy kick where needed. Our overall favorites without a doubt were the Haleem and Biryani. Mari thought the Karahi was too saucy and Temi was pleasantly surprised by the Chana Masala. Our friends who accompanied us thoroughly enjoyed stepping out of their comfort zone of Tikka Masala. With full and happy bellies, we were also given a quick behind the scenes tour of the kitchen. Unfortunately we were unable to get pictures due to proprietary content. One thing is for sure, Naan-n-Curry is living its best life. They have plans to expand the size of their Issaquah location and their OG Renton location is still hustling and bustling. We'll definitely be visiting Naan-n-Curry again and you should too, if anything, to expand your culinary horizons and learn more about Pakistani cuisine.
TMA Rating: 4.5
Ambience: No Frills
Wait time: 10 mins
Food: Pakistani cuisine
Would we go back? Yes
Halal Friendly? The whole menu…yes ALL of it
Disclaimer: What we say on here is strictly based on our experiences, and all thoughts, words and opinions are our (Temi and Mari) own. For this food adventure, the food was on the house.