Angry catfish at Aroy-Dee, 2128 Indianola
Ave., 528-8009. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9
Kurry Xpress, 1679 N.W. 86th St., Clive, 223-2202.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.
on Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.
to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Kurry Xpress (KX) of Omaha expanded recently
into a challenging strip mall in Clive. A Vietnamese
crawfish joint and a Mexican restaurant both
gave up after short runs in the same location.
Because of a new traffic island, northbound
86th Street provides the only entrance or exit.
That’s a clue — the word “Xpress” is related
to the verb “express,” as in “express yourself,”
not the adjective, as in “express delivery.”
The store had been remodeled with wooden tables
and chairs plus new blinds. The latter had stickers
attached warning of the dangers of strangulation
and its many complications. Lots can happen
while you wait for an order. On each of my visits,
everyone ordering at the counter was told “20
to 25 minutes” were required. My order, even
drinks, actually took 41 minutes on my first
visit and two items didn’t make it all. The
next time, I called ahead and my food was waiting
when I arrived 35 minutes later. The dining
room was rather full each time, mostly with
people waiting for carryout orders. Indian movies
played on one TV with volume while muted Country
Western music played on another — Toby Keith
seemed to be singing a Hindi dance tune.
South Indian dishes were full of bold flavors.
I tried two called “Chettinad,” a word which
can refer to a region as well as to the Hindu
caste devoted to the culinary arts. A lamb dish
by that name tasted of coriander and tender
meat with curry leaves, red chilies, fennel
and poppy seeds in a tomato-based gravy. My
lamb vindaloo was not nearly as flavorful as
the Chetinnad style. Cumin rich tadka dhal (yellow
lentils) was served in a superb reduction of
onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Saag paneer
(homemade cheese with spinach) was less creamy
than others in town. Naan (bread) was thinner
and crispier than what Des Moines is used to.
Samosa chaat (egg roll snacks) buried pieces
of chopped samosa at the bottom of cholay masala
(chick pea stew). Rice stuck to the paper plates
on which it was served — even turned upside
down. “Take-out” orders were served in plastic
containers with lids, “dine-in” orders in the
same containers without lids.
Despite liking some curries, it’s hard to recommend
KX. Namaste is just 12 blocks away with more
sophisticated South Indian cuisine, considerably
better service, comparable prices, a lunch buffet,
a beer and wine license and easy access. Movies
are similar though.
Across town, Tong Baccam seems to have found
an ideal spot to introduce Vietnamese cuisine
to the south side. His Aroy-Dee (Thai for “yummy-yeah”)
has taken over another location that saw multiple
cafés quickly come and go. Remodeling added
tables plus an entryway that reduced winter
drafts. Business was booming on each of my visits
distinguished by quick, friendly service.
Owner chef Baccam opened this place after selling
the popular Vietnamese café Pho Ha Dao. Fans
of the latter can find most of the Indo Chinese
dishes they liked there plus some 25 Chinese
choices. That means bargains like an entire
angry catfish with rice for just $8.50. “House
special” stir-fry dishes cost as little as $6.50.
Bun thit nuong (rice noodles with grilled pork)
included eight vegetables and lemon sauce for
$6.50. Pho tai chin (beef stock noodle soup)
lacked the rich brothy flavor of the best in
town (TNT), but delivered excellent brisket
and rare rounds of beef plus a plate of fresh
culantro, cilantro, sprouts, chilies and basil
for as little as $7.
In just 15 months, All Spice owner Alex Rhodes
influenced as many top chefs as anyone in Des
Moines has. May cinnamon angels sing him to
his rest. CV