I previously wrote about my friend Chad Ward‘s great book, An Edge in the Kitchen, which discusses everything you’d ever want to know about knives, but if you’re looking for a gift for someone who’s into food, then get this book. I’m not going to tell you how great it is, I’ll leave it to the experts. Slate.com named it one of the best books of 2008 (not just food books, ALL books). The Chicago Tribune named it one of the best food books of 2008. We have an “award-winning’ book writer in our midst, so pick up a copy, go to Chad’s website, and drop him a note, telling him how much you love it. Heck, if he has time, he may even offer to sign it for you!
Let me start with a huge disclaimer: I am an Indian food dilettante. I enjoy eating Indian food, but frankly, I know almost nothing about it. I’ve eaten with Indian friends, ordered off the menu (but usually go to the buffet), and I’ve even tried to read about the myriad regional cuisines of this huge country. But I still go to restaurants and can’t remember most of what I ate, what it was called, and what were the distinguishing flavors.
And I’m starting to think I understand why. Most of the Indian food I’ve eaten around here comes from a buffet steam table, where the food has been sitting for god knows how long, and the flavors end up highly muddled.
Recently, though, I’ve been eating food from those same steam tables, but the flavors are jumping out at me. Paneer that tastes like cheese. A chicken dish where the cilantro is very noticeable and clean. Naan fresh out of the kitchen, glistening with butter (or is it ghee?). Chutneys that truly do accent the flavors of the dishes.
This restaurant is Suchi, in that big strip-mall area of Cary near the intersection of Chatham St. and Maynard. The place where there’s Mexican groceries and bakeries. Where there’s a halal meat market and a Chinese seafood store. Where you can get Indian street food, Korean barbecue and lengua tacos. Suchi sort of captures the ambiance of the area by offering choices representing multiple Indian sub-cuisines.
Suchi used to be one of my regular stops for Indian food, and it was primarily because one of my Indian friends liked it. I thought it was OK, but it wasn’t really noticably better than other places. The food at Udupi was a bit better, but when I wanted dishes with meat (Udupi is vegetarian), I usually went to Suchi. But then the food started to get very ordinary. And the buffet didn’t get replenished very often, either. So I stopped going. Until two weeks ago, when I gave Suchi another try after learning they had new management. And you know what? I loved the place. Everything I tried was utterly delicious, but being the Indian food dunce that I am, I couldn’t say why. But I could describe the flavors, which is something I couldn’t previously do.
And so Chef Kirankumar showed me his kitchen, and the spices that he grinds and mixes routinely. His face showed me the pride with which he cooks — in the same manner as he did when cooking for two prime ministers of India (or so he claims — but who really cares?). He told me that he wants to put different items on the buffet every day, to give his customers a sense of the breadth of Indian food.
Although the buffet is available for lunch and for dinner on Friday and Saturday, you can always order off the menu, which I’m definitely going to do next time.
I was pleasantly surprised by Suchi’s food, and when a buddy of mine and his Indian wife reported to me that they also thought the food was top-notch, I felt comfortable enough to report back to you. So maybe I’m learning after all.
748-K East Chatham street
Cary, NC. 27511