As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m so very fortunate to live in the most diverse and delicious destination in all of New York City. And I’m even luckier to be a Tastemaker for the World’s Fare, a celebration of global cuisine and culture, which will be held on May 18 and 19 at Citi Field. In the weeks leading up to the Fare I’ll be profiling some of my favorite vendors from Queens and beyond. Today, a look at Kurry Qulture, Queens’ first upscale Indian eatery.
The World’s Borough has long been known as a destination for Indian cuisine and culture, but until Kurry Qulture opened its doors in 2015, something was missing. That something, says the Astoria restaurant’s 40-year-old owner Sonny Solomon, was an upscale ambience.
“Queens was missing a classy Indian place,” says the 40-year-old Astoria resident who worked for years in Manhattan’s white tablecloth Indian restaurants. “They have places in Queens where people go, eat, and leave. We wanted to have a place for people to eat and relax.”
Solomon hails from the North Indian state of Punjab, as does the restaurant’s chef, Binder Saini. They will be showcasing a classic Indian street food from that region — samosa chaat — at the World’s Fare.
While it’s tempting to think of samosa chaat as an Indian version of loaded nachos, it’s really its own thing. The fried vegetable turnovers, packed with potato and peas, are seasoned with whole cumin and coriander, topped with chickpeas, onion, and tomato, and then drizzled with a trio of sauces: mint and tamarind chutneys and a spicy yogurt.
Finally, the whole lot is showered with crunchy bits of sev, a chickpea noodle. The resulting explosion of textures and flavors — cool, crunchy, spicy, sweet, sour, and minty — is as exciting as the diverse food scene of Queens itself.
“It’s a very, very popular street food in North India, but now it’s all over India,” Solomon said. “People love it!”
Even though Solomon has called Queens home for just over two decades, he only recently learned the history of the Unisphere, the glittering stainless steel globe that was originally constructed for the 1964–65 World’s Fair as a symbol of the Space Age, but has come to represent the borough’s diversity.
“Well, it’s always been a symbol, I always pass by every time going from Grand Central to LaGuardia,” he says. “I see a lot of people playing cricket around that area, too, but I really never knew what it meant, to be honest with you.”
Be sure to stop by Kurry Qulture at the Fare and try the amazing Indian street food. Keep an eye out for the spring/summer menu, which will include such delicacies as tandoori game hen and galauti lamb kebab. The latter, a specialty of Lucknow, India, is an amazingly tender lamb patty that Solomon says was originally made for an Indian king who didn’t have any teeth. I can’t wait to try it!
Joe DiStefano is a Queens-based food writer, culinary tour guide, and author of the bestselling guidebook “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss.”
Taste Kurry Qulture’s samosa chaat at the World’s Fare at Citi Field (123-01 Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, https://theworldsfare.nyc) on May 18 and 19 from 12 to 8 p.m. Tickets from $19 to $199 (children under 10, $5).