Some of the most interesting distillations of Indian food in town come about when that distinctive cuisine is expressed with a unique cultural influence. In addition to South Indian cuisine, which contrast the rich sauces and simmered meats we all know and love with starchier, often vegetarian dishes like masala dosa, idli and vada, we have Indian variants in town that show the influence of South Africa (Narayanni’s), Sri Lanka (Kathir) or, perhaps most intriguingly, the influence of the Muslim chefs of Kolkata on Chinese cuisine (Masala Wok).
You can add to that list the clunky-named Indian Fusion The Curry House, which not only offers both Indian and Fijian cuisine (and beer), but also takes advantage of its unique geographical position to serve these delicacies made with elk, bison, rabbit and duck—and, for good measure, lobster.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. IFCH (if you’ll allow me this unofficial acronym) is nestled in a comfortable brick-lined nook alongside the better-known Louisiana Purchase, with surprisingly nice atmosphere for a place that looks like a convenience store on the outside. It’s snug and, as we saw on a Saturday night, fills up quickly. This is with good reason, as it turns out.
I was part of a group of six, perhaps the ideal size for an Indian food-tasting expedition, allowing as it does the opportunity to sample widely while still getting more than a couple of bites from any given dish. Having a vegetarian in tow was no problem as Indian restaurants generally have lots of meatless options, though, as noted above, the novel meaty options were alluring indeed. After some deliberation we agreed on nine dishes to try, along with naan bread and saffron rice (and Fijian beer), and set to the task of devouring the large complimentary serving of crispy pappadums with mango chutney and spicy, acidic mixed pickle.
Fiji is closer to Hawaii than it is to India, but apparently the latter has rubbed off somehow on the tiny archipelago nation. IFCH offers more than a dozen Fijian dishes so you can observe the similarities. Indeed, the dal viti ($12.99) was not that different from a strictly Indian preparation of red lentils, tomatoes, onions and fragrant spices. No one seemed that crazy about the “house special” pumpkin chokha ($12.99) at the time, but when I tried the leftover portion at home the next day, I found the mashed gourd mixed with ghee, whole spices and curry leaves to be dazzlingly rich and savoury.
There was no disagreement that the palak paneer and shahi paneer—house-made soft cheese cooked in stewed greens, and a slightly sweet cashew-based sauce, respectively—were highlights of the meal, especially as far as the vegetarian was concerned. Though a pescetarian, she was less taken with the fish Goan curry, but that’s her problem. I can tell you the soft morsels of basa melted on the tongue, giving way to a stealthy spiciness lurking beneath the coconut aroma of the sauce.
For meat dishes, we experimented with the duck masala ($19.99) and lamb vindaloo ($16.99). The former was surprisingly bony, but the tender shreds of duck meat easily stood up to the complex masala seasoning which, at medium spice level, moistened one’s brow without burning off the whole face. The lamb vindaloo, with its malt vinegar tang, was disappointing only in that five people opted to share one order.
In all, we were impressed by the quality of the food and the service, but we were even more impressed when the entire meal, including a round of drinks, tax and tip, came to $35 a person. Those factors, and its central location, make a good case for repeat visits and a deeper understanding of Indian-Fijian fusion.