Indian restaurant hidden in a liquor store gains following in South Lake Tahoe
Walk into the Keys Liquor Market and you will be hit with a wonderful but unlikely mix of smells: curry, cardamom, cumin, coriander and clove, to name a few.
Now follow your nose to the corner of the store and it will all make sense. There husband and wife duo Kashi and Paru Kandel are cooking up delicious Indian dishes in a small, modest kitchen.
The Kandels opened Curry & Grill this past July after closing their restaurant in Sacramento in favor of the small-town mountain lifestyle.
“It’s so amazing. People are so supportive and nice. We’re happy to be here,” said Kashi, before bringing over a plate of fresh Samosas (triangular pastries stuffed with seasoned potatoes and peas), Chicken Tikka Masala (roasted chicken cooked in a flavorful tomato-onion sauce), Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower cooked with tomatoes, peas, cumin, coriander and cilantro). And of course rice and naan bread.
Kashi, who is originally from Nepal, fell in love with cooking at a young age.
“I had a fascination with cooking since my teens. In India, in Bombay, I took culinary courses,” said Kashi.
He came to the U.S. in 2010 and worked as a cook in other restaurants before opening his first restaurant.
“People say that Indian food is spicy and heavy, but our food is not that kind of Indian food. We have different options for mild, medium and hot, so people can choose their spice level,” said Kashi.
“For me as the chef, I recommend all options, but the most popular items are the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Coconut Curry Chef’s Special — lamb or chicken or veggie. And the garlic naan.”
Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Tandoori, Shrimp Curry, Butter Chicken and Vegetable Korma are just a handful of the dishes that keep a growing group of “regulars” coming back for takeout. (Inside its nook of Keys Liquor Market there are a few tables, but most opt to take the food to-go.)
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available as well.
While the majority of the food is authentic Indian cuisine, Kashi also cooks up dishes that remind him of his home country of Nepal: Thupka (a clear noodle soup with veggies), Momo (Nepalese dumplings), and a Nepali-style Chowmein.
Other dishes are a nod to the West.
“Our Pesto Naan is something exceptional. You can’t find this on a regular Indian menu,” said Kashi.
“We will try to update our menu every season, and bring more soup and heavily spiced food in winter and more light food in the summer,” added Kashi.
Curry & Grill is located at 2297 Lake Tahoe Blvd. inside of the Keys Liquor Market. It’s open Tuesday – Sunday from noon – 9 p.m.