On a cool fall evening last month, we ventured out to try something new. Our taxi wove us through and around downtown Ankara to reach Gaziosmanpaşa or GOP. From a main road lined with high-end restaurants and boutiques, we couldn’t see our destination but another taxi driver directed us to turn the corner where we found Spicy Curry House.
The vibrant Indian décor warmed us instantly, and we were seated behind a young couple awaiting their meal. The windowsills were lined with potted plants and paintings adorned the walls. We sank into our cushioned booth and quickly scanned the vegetarian section of the menu which included a handful of vegetable curries and stewed legumes.
Worried that the portions would be small, we ordered generous helpings of chickpea curry, moong dal curried lentils, baigan bharta eggplant stew, and plain biryani rice. A very light and crisp pappadum wafer paired with tamarind sauce whet our appetites for the meal to come.
All of our dishes arrived to the table and we began to salivate. Piping hot and freshly prepared, we started heaping spoons of each dish onto our plates. I overlooked the parsley sprigs garnishing our food instead of cilantro but had to reorient myself when I tasted brown lentils mixed in with the yellow dal curry. Undeterred, I hoped to savor flavors beyond the repertoire of my own cooking but each dish, though tasty in its own right, lacked the authentic taste of Indian cuisine. I know that it is quite common for ethnic foods to be toned down in spice to suit the local palate, but this was a bit like a reinvention of the cuisine. The exact same meal would’ve impressed me if it was served in someone’s home but for restaurant dining, I expected more. It didn’t feel worth the cross-city trek that it took to reach the restaurant. Nonetheless, the meal was satisfying and we looked forward to reheating our leftovers the next day.
With the dearth of Indian restaurants in Ankara, I believe that Spicy Curry House has an opportunity to remain unchallenged in the Turkish dining scene. We didn’t meet the Algerian owner but the local manager is personable with an excellent command of English, so communicating our dietary needs was easy. Maybe meat-eaters will leave with a different impression but our vegan palates noticeably missed the unique nuance of authentic Indian cuisine that we hope will eventually reach Ankara during our stay.