The Sexy Curry Company
Certain experts over the years have touted the aphrodisiacal properties of curries, claiming that spices such as cardamom, ginger, chili and lemongrass stimulate blood flow and, ahem, help get you in the mood. While amorous isn’t exactly how most people would describe themselves after a heaping bowl of curry with rice and naan, and a few starters thrown in – feelings tending more along the lines of “full to bursting” or “someone needs to roll me home” being more common – curry has become such an obsession on Prague’s dining scene the past few years that, with the opening of The Sexy Curry Company earlier this year, it could border on a fetish.
The Sexy Curry Company started out as special guest evenings at The James Joyce Irish pub, hosted by celebrated local chef, and Asian food guru, Sofia Smith, who previously had put her Midas touch to work on the menu at Sansho and, later, at Le Patio, which shone brightly for a bit before being handed over to new management. Several months ago, the SCC opened as a delivery and takeaway service, operated out of The James Joyce. While the menu certainly had a steamy range of curries from around the world – Thai, Indian, Indonesian and Cape Malay, to name a few – the prices seemed off-puttingly steep for a takeaway, with most dishes priced in the upper 200s before even tacking on sides or starters.
Now, at least, the SCC also offers the option to order and eat-in at The James Joyce in the evenings, with one lunch special of the pub’s also being a featured curry. So far it seems to be working, as both the SCC menu and James Joyce’s pub fare are served throughout, although the pervading smell of thick-cut french fries made us debate the British “fusion” solution of curry and chips. Our waitress, too, slipped for a moment into confusing the pub menu, as she asked “Do you want cheese with that?” in response to an order of SCC’s Rogan Josh. She quickly corrected herself at least, and was otherwise prompt and friendly, her Russian accent tinged with an Irish lilt.
Dining in, the drinks menu is the same as The James Joyce’s, with options like Guinness from the tap for 98 CZK , a half-liter carafe of house white wine for 165 CZK and Gambrinus 10 for 39 CZK pint. The website for SCC lists a drinks menu for delivery and takeaway with several wines by the bottle and Fentiman’s soft drinks.
Despite being a pretty touristy spot, The James Joyce does have a welcoming atmosphere, and on a recent visit was barely half-full for the evening, which spared us having to listen to boisterous stag groups; instead, a nice mix of Motown classics played on a loop in the background, and the front room’s stone fireplace, while unlit, gave a cozy feel to the place.
Once the starters arrived, we forgot we were sitting in an Irish bar. The four appetizers we sampled were equally as excellent and made for a tough act to follow by the mains. The starters would more than suffice for a satisfying spread for picking out over a few drinks; the sticky pork ribs (CZK 145), in particular, were incredibly good: six little ribs with tender, smoky meat that came easily off the bone and an umami-rich, glutinous glaze that had us licking our fingers afterward. The ribs came with a smattering of shredded pickled ginger, as well, which was a good complement.
The four skewers of chicken satay (CZK 135), speared onto sticks of grilled lemongrass, were close to perfect. The meat was fatty and juicy, with a nice bit of char to it and a tang from the skewers, and there was a generous amount of thick peanut sambal on the side for smothering, a rich, chunky sauce that was thankfully not overly sweet as some versions can be.
Red onion pakora (CZK 95) was a pleasant surprise, looking more like a tangle of bhaji, with crisp and crunchy splayed tentacles of onion, coriander and chili deep-fried in a chickpea flour. About five clusters came on the plate, served with a bowl of heavy tamarind chutney that coaxed out the spices in the pakora. A starter of poppadums (CZK 35) were better than most: The wafer-thin, airy puffs were cracklingly crisp and satisfyingly oily, and paired well with the recommended Goan mango chutney.
The mains we sampled stood out mostly for their zestiness, with an abundance of fresh herbs. The chicken Madras (CZK 205) had a small fistful of fresh coriander leaves on top and a brick-hued sauce heavy with stewed onions. There were enough chunks of chicken to ensure some for each bite, with a swirl of coconut milk – described on the menu as taking the edge off of the hot curry, which it definitely did, almost to a fault. There was a slight heat to the Madras, though, that built well over time. A side of Pilau rice (CZK 95) was serviceable and fluffy but forgettable, and the saffron was hard to detect.
Beef rendang (CZK 265), one of the dishes made popular locally by Sansho, stood out with its bold character. The dry Indonesian curry was a stew of soft, pulled beef, and tasted of an expertly blended mix of aromatic spice, shallots and lemongrass, and was topped by crunchy slivers of toasted coconut. A side of thaka dhall (CZK 145) was recommended with the rendang, but proved an odd combination; the considerable portion of rich lentils, coriander and turmeric would have been better as a main dish with a side of rice or flatbread.
The SCC’s flatbread (CZK 65) was a wonderful halfway point between naan and focaccia, a dense, thick bread studded with toasted black sesame seeds and glistening with oil. The two halves comprising the side went a long way and were great for soaking up leftover gravy and juices.
Rogan josh (CZK 285) – cheese possibilities aside – was infused with the grassy flavor of the lamb and heavier on the cloves and cinnamon than other versions. Jungle duck (CZK 285) – which had been a highlight of Le Patio’s initial menu – was here incredibly oversalted, which went a way toward overpowering the sweet duck breast and the balance of lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and krachai. Green chilis did their best nonetheless to give off a strong heat.
The Sexy Curry Company is doing a good job of introducing some rarer curries to the local scene. Let’s hope that, with continued success, it can one day move on from moonlighting at The James Joyce and have its own dedicated brick-and-mortar temple to curry.
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