Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Dining

Indian food options expand with Curry Leaves, another Gateway to India

One door closes, another opens and then the old door opens again.

That seems to be the mantra with local Indian eateries these days, as restaurants shift to new locales only to have new restaurants open in their old spots, continuing to grow the number of spicy options outside of Tampa's Fowler Avenue Indian restaurant corridor.

Such is the case with Curry Leaves, which opened in the gas station spot vacated by India's Grill's move farther down Kennedy, and a third Gateway to India location, which opened in the Pinellas Park building that formerly housed Clay Oven. Another that feels familiar: Cafe Masala in St. Petersburg, with a sign that says "serving great Indian food since 1993," is owned by Naresh and Madhu Sharma, whose former restaurants include Green Chili Indian Bistro in downtown St. Petersburg and Raga Asian Indian Restaurant in Clearwater.

Curry Leaves

4843 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 319-4014

Yes, Tampa has an Indian-restaurant-in-a-gas-station again, though Curry Leaves has actually elevated the dining room to feel a bit less like it's abutting the WestShore Plaza BP station (although if you venture to one of the patio tables near the fuel pumps, there'll be no mistaking it). A recent lunch buffet saw a variety of people packing in to enjoy staples like tandoori chicken, daal and naan alongside rarer offerings like tangy Malabar fish curry, goat biryani and freshly poured dosa.

Gateway to India

7201 66th St., Pinellas Park; (727) 350-5700

The chain started in Sarasota and followed in St. Petersburg, and recently opened a third location on the corner of 66th Street and Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park. (Clay Oven in this spot moved to north St. Petersburg in April 2015, and the Taste of Punjab around the same corner shifted to Largo.) The interior here is swankier than most Indian eateries with colorful lanterns, a small pool with floating rose petals and low-level lighting. And the food is up to matching the ambience, the flavors in dishes such as methi mutter paneer rich and complex but smooth. But here, lamb seems like an especially good bet, with a range of dishes that focus on drawing out the flavor and tenderness in New Zealand lamb.

Cafe Masala

10324 Roosevelt Blvd., St. Petersburg; (727) 576-2233

Tucked quietly into the Ibis Walk plaza on Roosevelt Boulevard next to Freshii, this spot has a very cafe feel — a hip interior, small tables and a small room. The food is a little blase by Indian standards. On a recent visit, two very different dishes perplexingly came served in the same creamy sauce and rather short on spices except red chili, with a hariyali kebab appetizer also oddly covered in cream instead of crisp and minty. An aloo paratha, on the other hand, was wonderfully savory, though it was the only special we were offered on a day the menu touted "special — street food."

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