Curry In A Hurry
About a week and a half ago, while hanging out at the Flying Saucer, one of my favorite Saucer Girls wanted me to run an errand for her. Kelly, one of the sexiest, most knowledgeable and hardest working bartenders/servers (or as I like to call them, “waitresses”) that I know, needed something to keep her going. In this case, it was a bottle of 5-Hour Energy and a smoothie. So, I headed over to Second Street Shoppers to get the things that Kelly wanted. While finding the 5-Hour Energy was easy, acquiring the smoothie was more difficult, or so I thought. Kelly wanted a smoothie that comes in a bottle, as opposed to a freshly made one. With me not being a smoothie drinker, I was unfamiliar with the forms that the beverage comes in. So with the convenience store not making them, I headed off to another store to get Kelly’s smoothie.
After leaving Second Street Shoppers, I quickly weighed my options about where to go next. Fortunately, the first place that came to mind was City Market because of the smoothie painting displayed on its window. This wasn’t the first time that I’ve been there, but my previous visits were brief. I usually would get coffee or juice but never anything to eat. This time, while waiting for my friend’s smoothie, I wandered through the store to see what it offered. In short, City Market is almost the equivalent of a miniature Whole Foods Market. Like the supermarket chain, City Market sells organic vegetables, unique grocery items like Indian chutney, and deli products. From the deli, one can also order sandwiches featuring Boar’s Head meats and plate lunches/dinners. After observing what City Market had, I decided to have lunch there the next day.
SIDE NOTE: Although Kelly was shocked when I brought her the strawberry and banana smoothie, she was very pleased with what she got. I was happy to do it for her, because she has proven herself as one of the few friends that I have. I’m very fortunate to have a friend who will accept me as I am, regardless of social and financial status. Compared to most of my “friends,” Kelly is an honest person who I wish nothing but the best.
With my intention of ordering lunch at City Market, I decided to follow a theme, Since the owners of the place are Indian, I got the chicken curry (called “Curry Chicken”) with the Three Bean Salad and Basmati Rice as sides. My order was ready almost immediately after I placed it. The aroma of the curry was enticing, giving me high hopes for a good meal. It didn’t disappoint, for the spices common to the dish like cumin and turmeric were present along with a lot of chili pepper seasoning. The chicken, chopped in small pieces, was very tender and mixed well with the curry. In terms of flavor, I got very little from the rice and the Three Bean Salad consisting of red onions, kidney and green beans and chickpeas (the deli’s cooks called it hummus, which eventually became a bad omen). However, both sides complemented the curry well, making it a nice meal that I’ll likely order again.
A couple of weeks later, I went back to City Market for lunch. Like with my first visit, I had an Indian themed meal. This time, I got the Bollywood Burger with kettle-fried potato chips and a dill pickle. Giddy about getting the burger, I violated a cardinal rule. Whenever I order a burger, I never ask how I want it cooked. I prefer letting the restaurant offer that option to me. If it doesn't ask for a preference, then it's likely that the restaurant can only make it one way. When I insist on a preference from a place like that, I rarely get what I want. Most of the time, the end result is a burger that is either too raw or overcooked. Usually that doesn't bother me, but my first Bollywood Burger was the exception.
It's not often that I'm caught completely off guard. When I got City Market's Bollywood Burger, I had certain expectations. As with any burger, I expect the meat to be brown on the outside, an indication that the kitchen cooked both sides of the ground beef. Unfortunately, the kitchen staff at City Market got it literally half right. While one side of the beef patty appeared brown (very hard to tell with the cheese covering it), the other side was damn near raw. When I saw it, many thoughts ran through my mind like "what the f#¿%!" I don't want to accuse City Market's kitchen staff of incompetence, but it went numbskull with my burger. After thinking it over, I decided to take a chance in eating it. I would not have done it if I wasn't on my lunch break from work, but I didn't have enough time for a do over. The burger, topped with pickles, a tomato slice and American cheese (and red onions, which I removed), had a lot of Indian flavor but it was hard to appreciate because of the meat. The grittiness of the nearly raw ground beef was off-putting and not enjoyable. Compared to City Market's curry, the burger was a disappointment because I expected better from the highly praised deli.
SIDE NOTE: By comparison, the terrible cheeseburger that I had at The Arcade several years ago looked normal. Even though the burger tasted nasty, Arcade's kitchen staff put in the effort to cook it properly.
Like the crappy burger that I had at The Arcade, I was about to chalk up the Bollywood Burger as a bad experience and move on. However, after tweeting about it, City Market responded by offering me a complementary burger cooked the way I wanted. I was reluctant to accept the offer, but I felt the deli deserved another chance. Besides, I brought troubles on myself by specifying what I wanted. This time, City Market won't have any excuses if it screwed up again.
When I got the second Bollywood Burger, I didn't give City Market advanced notice of my arrival. I simply got it as a to-go order like I would from anywhere else. In calling it in, I simply stated that I wanted the burger. I didn't make any special requests, for I wanted the burger as the deli intended it. This time around, the cooks at City Market got it right. The meat was cooked "well done," although red specks were present inside of it. Seasoned with spices that I'm unfamiliar with, the ground beef had a pleasantly sour flavor that appealed to me. Along with cheese, pickles and a tomato slice within a run-of-the-mill bun, the Bollywood Burger turned out well. Although I won't put it among the top places in Memphis for burgers, City Market has one that's worthy of an occasional visit. Of course, I'll have to remember not to get anything special with it.
SIDE NOTE: I want to thank the deli’s owners for treating me to another burger, which was something that they didn’t have to do. Most restaurants would have blown it off, but obviously the folks at City Market care about its reputation.
From my recent visits to City Market, my overall impression is positive. Although the competency of the kitchen staff is questionable, the deli serves good food at affordable prices. Compared to other Memphis restaurants serving Indian food, City Market holds its own in terms of quality and affordability. For those who work and/or live in Downtown Memphis, City Market is a decent alternative for those seeking something different. As long as expectations aren't high, most will not find disappointment in what they get from the grocery/deli. I like it, and I believe others will too.