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478 O'Farrell Street (between Jones & Taylor), San Francisco, CA 94102, 415 775 1349
San Francisco's Tenderloin area is a mecca for cheap, ethnic restaurants. It's just the place to head to when you're not in the mood for any hoity toity chi-chi-ness or if you want a filling plate of chow without spending an arm and a leg.
It's hard to persuade Fred, a creature of habit, the Frenchman with an unadventurous palate, to eat ethnic food. Fortunately for me he loves Indian. He especially likes these hole-in-the-wall type curry houses (there are many of them and several chains), because they remind him of the places he ate at when he was traveling in India. Bright fluorescent lighting, self service, general uncleanliness and unsavoury smells are all part of the attraction and charm. But the main draw is an enormous amount of spicy food you can order and consume at a great price. You might burn a hole in your gullet, but you won't burn a hole in your pay check! Naan & Curry is now a chain, but this site on O'Farrell is the original, as I understand it.
Place your order at the counter where you will be given a table number. Sit down, make yourself comfortable, or else whilst you are waiting, go and get some booze...
BYOB. Buy some Indian beer in the store next door. Smuggle it in a brown paper bag. Serve in polystyrene cups.
Lamb Seekh Kabaab Ground lamb marinated in spices on skewers and cooked in clay oven 3.99 Fred's favourite, his order every time but somehow he always neglects to let me try.
Lamb Chops Tandori Lamb chops cooked in a Clay Oven 8.99 Five succulent, mildly spiced lamb chops. Last time we were at N & C these were superb. This time they were just ok. One of the chops, a different cut from the others tasted about twice as good and fresh as the other four. Still, all of the meat is moist and juicy and not at all dry. It certainly tastes of lamb. Don't order if you don't like your meat strong.
Sada Karayla Bittermelon cooked with ginger, garlic and onions 4.99 Woah - this is quite spicy. It's going to make your nose run. Pause. Look around the restaurant and note the number of people sniffling and doubling up their paper napkins as hankerchiefs. It sure is bitter but the spices mainly disguise that, it's just in the aftertaste that you can detect it. This dish has an unusual crunchiness from the addition of seeds. Melon seeds, perhaps? The owner told us his mum always used to hassle him when he was a kid "Eat your bitter melon up, its good for you!". He told us it's the Indian equivalent of broccoli in that respect, a food you are nagged to eat when you are a child, but which you may actually grow up to like in the end.
Naan. Huge. Twice as big as you'd expect. The crispiest sections are the best bits. The softer, more doughy parts are great for mopping up those spicy sauces. Just $1 each.