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Bethesda Curry Kitchen, North and South Indian on Cordell Avenue - Chef Anil Kumar Comes From Saveur India

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If anyone finds out where Anil Kumar landed, can they let us know?

Anil Kumar is now at Bethesda Curry Kitchen, right across the street from Grapeseed, which opened on Tuesday, February 11th.

On this very cold evening, the nearly empty restaurant seemed like an eternity away from Gringos & Mariachis, just a few blocks down Cordell Avenue, and which also opened on February 11th. I have no doubt that on this evening, Gringos & Mariachis was packed.

A liquor license is still a few weeks away, so for now, this restaurant is without alcohol. I started my dinner with a homemade Mango Lassi ($3.50) which reminded me that Kumar's former restaurant, Saveur India, had some of the best Kulfi I've ever tried - Bethesda Curry Kitchen also has homemade Kulfi on their dessert menu.

Chef Kumar is from Hyderabad, a huge city in the South of India, and the south is very well-represented on the menu. The city of Coorg sits about 400 miles southwest of Hyderabad, nestled in the Western Ghats. When I go to India for the first time, my plan is to spend some time in Goa, but a detour to Coorg is also on the agenda.

Coorgi Chicken ($15.99) isn't a dish you see very often in the DC area, but it was very well-executed here, and obviously long-cooked, containing 5-6 boneless, Halal thighs in a wonderful curry (the quality of this chicken was very high). Served with basmati rice, I also got a Mehti Paratha ($3.00) for the requisite sauce dunking.

On a frigid Saturday night, there was only one other family of four dining in this somewhat stark, utilitarian restaurant. "Until you get your liquor license, weekend dinners during the winter are going to break your heart," I said to my server. I cannot think of an atmosphere that's more different from Gringos & Mariachis than Bethesda Curry Kitchen, but both restaurants are initialized in Italic in the Dining Guide which speaks volumes about the potential quality of cooking here. Also just down Cordell Avenue from Passage To India, I don't even see the two as competitors - one is a curry house; the other is fine dining.

Bethesda Curry Kitchen is going to survive, not by weekend dinners, but by delivery and lunch buffets. I walked past the empty buffet - which had the signs up - and noticed that my Coorgi Chicken was on it, so you can enjoy this exact same dish for lunch, with many others to accompany it, for less money. In fact, until they get their liquor license, a lunch buffet would be the perfect way to initiate yourselves with this fine newcomer.

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Mixed experience trying the lunch buffet at Bethesda Curry Kitchen.  On the one hand, we were there after they had been open for two hours -and there were no other customers around.  Things like idli and dosa sitting on the steam table are not going to hold up for that long, so it wouldn't be fair of me to say they were bad; they may have been awesome fresh out of the kitchen.  However, I eat and cook enough Indian food to know certain other dishes may loose their luster after two hours, but the basic flavors and proportions will still be discernable.  We sampled almost everything but liked very little.  Just like at Saveur India, I found most of the dishes unidimensional.  The paneer in tomato cream sauce, for example, was just kind of sweet and tomatoey and had little else going on.  Spinach with corn was also lackluster, though this is a dish that doesn't like to sit around.  Mushroom and peas were just... I don't know how to describe them; tasted like mushroom and peas with generic Indian spicing.  Lamb rogan josh tasted nothing like any rogan josh I've had before, but that doesn't surprise me: it's a dish with a million regional variations.  This one had a thin sauce and a bit of a sour tang, which was interesting.

There was a potato dish I hadn't encountered before (with mustard seeds and an unknown ingredient) that was quite tasty.  And the coorgi chicken was great (Don, it was white meat this time), and what I expect out of Indian food: a nicely balanced complexity of flavors.

I agree with Don that the quality of the meats seemed very high; I took one piece of almost every one on the buffet, and they were all moist, fork-tender and without gristle.

So my initial impression is that the vegetable dishes were not so good, but the meat dishes have a lot of potential.  In fairness I'm going to give this place another try, and be sure to get there early enough to get the food while it's fresh.

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So I did give this place another try, arriving on a weekday a few minutes after they opened.  Short version: a world of difference.  Everything  was much better than last time.  The buffet offered an extensive selection of vegan dishes (mostly south Indian), one paneer dish, three chicken dishes, and a goat curry.  I didn't try everything, but most of what I tried was very good.  There are now three worthwhile Indian restaurants within a 3 minute walk of each other in this sector of Bethesda.  I hope there's enough interest for all of them to survive.

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I stopped by this place twice in July and I really liked it! Plenty of (halal) meat and they are very generous about adding seasonings to the rice. I preferred the biryani at this place to the biryani at Biryani Pointe. Their eggplant dish (baghara baingan) was also really on point and I like their carrot halwa too.

I'm actually planning on stopping by next week and calling ahead to order the Hyderabadi biryani (the chef told me that he needs 24 hours notice). Can't wait!

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Hopefully there's enough interest for three Indian places to stay alive in so small an area, but if I had to choose one to pass on, it would be BCC.

To me, Kadhai has the far superior lunch buffet, and if I want a menu, I'm going to Passage to India.

On the positive side, BCC always seems to have a $25 coupon on restaurant.com that you can frequesntly get for $4, but it can't be used for the lunch buffet.

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On a rainy night in Bethesda 2 weeks ago, we popped in for dinner. I was a little worried that it was so empty but the food was really tasty. We got aloo gobi, palak paneer and garlic naan. Nothing crazy, but warm and exactly what we wanted. I would definitely pop in again when in the area. They looked like they had a steady take out business going and the restaurant got a lot more full as the night went on.

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