A Visit to Biju's Little Curry Shop
By: Mary Hetrick, Content Manager for Saris Cycling Group
The summer of 2016 I was beckoned back to the Rocky Mountains for a brief time. A former college roommate had kindly invited me to be part of her July nuptials, an opportunity that put my husband and I to work planning our return to a city we had once called home. As we pieced together our days, we wanted to be sure to save room in our calendars and stomachs alike to visit Biju's Little Curry Shop.
Before diving into detail about our delicious excursion, a little background on why Biju's restaurant could be found at the top of our to-do list. The friendship between Chef Biju, Skratch Lab's Allen Lim, the owner of Saris Cycling Group, Chris Fortune, and the President of PowerTap, Jeff Frehner, goes back quite some time – over 10 years. Whenever Biju makes a stop through Madison it's not unusual to come to the office the next day to find our Bike Café filled with intoxicating aromas from fare hand-prepared by Chef Biju. From tastes of Biju and Allen's Feed Zone series to some unique creations, those of us that are lucky to get a bite from the kitchen before everything is eaten up have developed what could be considered a foodie fan club. (Some of us are known to show-up with copies of the Feed Zone books in one hand and a sharpie in the other when the guys are in for a visit.) In fact, some of the recipe development and testing for the Little Curry Shop happened here in Wisconsin when Biju paid us a visit to try out some of his now-well-known dishes. It's safe to say that no one goes hungry when Biju the Chef comes calling.
And so it seemed appropriate that we make our own pilgrimage to the "Chipotle of Indian food."
My husband and our friend in front of Little Curry Shop before we began our culinary adventure.
With tickets to that night's Rockies versus Braves game in our pockets, my husband, our Denver host and myself headed to the Little Curry Shop location in the RiNo neighborhood on 26th Street. Nothing could have prepared us for the experience nor the sheer amount of deliciousness that was about to rain upon us.
Biju had fully prepared his staff for our arrival. Two Little Curry Shop rock stars named Josh and Ellen took the absolute best care of us. As we stood at the entry reviewing the menu inspired by southern Indian fare, our stomachs grumbled with anticipation as the spicy-sweet smells teased our noses, Josh and Ellen asked, "Do you want to try a little of everything?" The three of us eagerly nodded, unable to make a decision between the variety of flavor and meat (or non-meat) offered by the five dishes served.
Our main entrées.
My companions, Josh, Ellen and myself settled on Little Curry Shop favorites of Coconut Curry Chicken, Extra Hot Vindaloo Chicken, Marsala Beef, and the award winning eggplant tacos (yes, tacos). All of this was served up with craft beer hand-selected to pair well with the flavor palate of the dishes, along with some mango lassi (a personal weakness), some chapati and samosas. After the table was set it became apparent that we needed a bigger table – and bigger stomachs.
The food just kept arriving. Here it all is, the full spread. Time to dig in.
We dined family style, each taking turns sampling the wide array of food laid in front of us. Starting with the appetizers of warm chapati and samosas, we began our culinary adventure. The pillowy samosas were filled with potatoes, veg and served with two chutneys that were like two heads of the same coin. The chapatti was the perfect partner to not only the distinctive chutneys, but the main dishes themselves.
Take a bite (or seven), pass it on.
A mix of fresh slaws, woked veggies, tender meats and carefully selected sauces comprised our three main courses. Each one made from scratch and assembled by the teamwork of Josh and Ellen. After our first bites it was clear why these dishes are so popular.
Josh and Ellen rocking the prep-line with fresh ingredients on full display.
The bright, lightly sweet Coconut Chicken Curry was complimented by the spiced lentils and date biriyani. Its sweetness was countered by the Extra Hot Vindaloo Chicken. We were warned that the vindaloo bowl is "white people hot", a fact that my mostly German genes confirmed as a thin layer of sweat appeared on my upper lip. This dish is served with extra spicy sauce, further confirmation that this entrée is not messing around and truly earns the label of "extra hot".
Coconut chicken curry in the bowl with the extra hot vindaloo next up to bat on the left.
In between these two flavor extremes were the Marsala Beef and the Eggplant Tacos. The marsala beef offered the same delicious and reliable flavor that the "marsala" label promises. A perfect melody of garlic, ginger and cardamom, clove and hint of cinnamon the beef dish was a table favorite. As were the eggplant tacos, featuring sautéed eggplant mixed with onion, chickpeas and seasonings to create a creamy, subtle spice. By far one of the best, most unique tacos I've ever had the pleasure of eating and was alone worth our trip.
The only photo I was able to take of the award winning eggplant tacos before they were absolutely devoured.
Of course, when visiting a new eatery, the spotlight shines brightest on the food. And rightfully so. The fare is likely what drew you to spend your dollars there in the first place. That being said, there's a reason some opt for the Johnny Rockets' chain burger over Mickey D's – a little thing called ambiance. Something Little Curry Shop knows a bit about, as their dine-in experience did not disappoint.
My husband living his professional eating dream.
Upon walking into the RiNo location, a large painted peacock served as our personal greeter. Through the door we saw an indoor seating area for about 20 patrons, plus ample outdoor seating both in front and to the side. Initial impressions of the ambiance are just as you'd expect; chill, urban, relaxed, modern, featuring a smooth mix of beats. Upon closer inspection, well-thought-out details show themselves at every turn.
You don't have to take my word for it, just listen to the peacock.
From the upcycled Indian-spice-containers-turned-salt-and-pepper-shakers to the chalk wall begging for more art, Little Curry Shop is a cozy corner in a bustling city with a lot of personality. Wooden tables line a benched wall decked out with bright, ornate fabrics that are as comfortable as they are nice to look at. Upon those tables, dine-in meals are plated on white. A smart move as the stark, clean contrast brings out the rich colors and textures in the food itself. And as expected, bicycles can be seen throughout the choice of décor.
Just a few of the many bicycles that can be seen in RiNo's Little Curry Shop.
The familiar form of the bicycle can be seen at every turn, from walls to figurines to the menu itself. This choice makes sense given the eatery's RiNo location among comrades in a bike-friendly neighborhood, including but not limited to Zephyr Brewing next door. Plus, anyone who knows Biju knows he has a deep, long-standing connection to the bicycle. A fact that you're reminded of at every glance, some instances more subtle than others. Built out with plenty of bike parking, Little Curry Shop is a go-to for Indian-food-loving, foodies-by-bike.
More eye-catching, bike-centric art.
The next time you find yourself in the Mile High City, or if you need a quick bite from the Boulder Whole Foods, and you're looking for an incredibly tasty adventure that's easy on the wallet and highly customizable, then Little Curry Shop is right up your alley. Better yet, bring your crew along for the ride because after all, food is better with friends.