CARMEL, N.Y. - When Pearl Gill drove by the empty storefront at 4 Church St. in Carmel, she knew an opportunity when she saw one. She immediately called Pavithran Chirakkal (aka Pavi), her friend and coworker from Jaipore, the Indian restaurant in Brewster, and told him now was the time they should open a restaurant together.
A short time later, in September 2016, Curry House—an Indian/Caribbean restaurant— was born.
Chirakkal moved to U.S. in 2008 and had landed a job working in the kitchen at Jaipore. He was later promoted to manager and held that position for five years.
“I went to culinary arts school in India in 1993 and then moved to Mumbai where I worked in several restaurants,” he said.
But Chirakkal wasn’t always interested in a career in the hospitality industry. In fact, he has a bachelor’s degree in economics.
“But my father loved to cook and I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen watching him,” he said.
Owning his own restaurant soon became Chirakkal’s dream.
Gill also took a somewhat circuitous path to a career in the culinary arts.
“I didn’t really enjoy cooking in the beginning,” she said with a grin. “But I got married fairly young and it was then that I started paying attention to my mom. I began taking over for her, cooking for the family.”
Gill, a native of Trinidad, came to the U.S. nearly 30 years ago.
“When I got here, I wasn’t involved in cooking [professionally], but I was interested in doing all kinds of [dishes],” she said. “I started to learn how to cook Italian food and other dishes in my own home. I had a lot of cookbooks and would watch the Cooking Channel.”
A friend bought a bakery/café in Staten Island about 10 years ago and she asked Gill to manage it. After she left the café, she headed north. Her first experience cooking on a large scale came when she took a job in the kitchen at Arms Acres, the rehab facility in Carmel.
“There I was cooking for about 200 people at a time,” she said. “Although the meals there were simple, I didn’t take the easy way out. I wanted the meals to be really well-received as if I was going to eat it myself. Everyone loved the food.”
Next, Gill moved onto PARC, the county’s advocacy agency for people with developmental disabilities, where she continue to hone her culinary skills.
“I started to cook for the guys there and everything I cooked they enjoyed,” she said.
During that time, she was also working as a waitress at Jaipore, where she struck up a friendship with Chirakkal. Both expressed a desire to open their own place.
Though Curry House has only been open for only six months, it has already developed a dedicated following.
“When we started it wasn’t supposed to be a sit-down restaurant,” Pearl said. “We planned on something that was more of a take-out place with maybe a few table and chairs. We made about 20 dishes and had them on the steam tables, kind of like a buffet.”
But their customers had other ideas.
“We got a lot of emails from customers that said they wanted a sit-down restaurant,” Chirakkal said. “Within a month we changed the whole thing.”
Curry House received its liquor license last month and now patrons can enjoy beer and wine with their meals.
Curry House offers an eclectic menu of classic Indian cuisine and Caribbean favorites, as well as few dishes that fuse the two styles together.
“One of our most popular Caribbean dishes the curry goat,” Gill said. “You can’t get that much around here, but here you can come and get it anytime.”
Another classic Caribbean dish that has proved popular with diners is the daalpuri roti (homemade bread stuffed with yellow split peas, garlic and cumin), as well as the callaloo, which is leafy vegetables cooked in Trinidadian style (spinach, squash, carrots, coconut milk and spices).
“And we have all kinds of chutneys from both India and the Caribbean,” Gill noted.
Popular Indian dishes include the chicken tikka masala, coconut curry chicken, tandoori chicken, and salmon tikka. Another big seller, Chirakkal said, is the saag paneer, a classic Indian dish cooked with spinach, paneer (homemade cheese) and fenugreek.
And while the menu is bound to please the palates of those seeking something different than the traditional fare found in most area restaurants, it also won’t break your budget. Many of the entrees range from $12 to $16.
“Here, we want to [feed] and satisfy,” Chirakkal said. “At the Curry House, you will eat and be satisfied and afterward you won’t be broke when you pay the bill.”
Gill notes that they offer their buffet daily for just $10.
“It has more than 10 items and always has different things,” she said. “If you go to McDonald’s and you buy a burger and some fries and a drink it’s about 10 bucks. Here you get all you can eat and it’s healthier food and you pay the same amount.”
The Curry House is located at 4 Church St. in Carmel. Hours are: Tuesday through Sunday, 11:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch/buffet; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, dinner is 4:30 to 9 p.m. On Fridays and Saturday, they stay open till 10 p.m. They’re closed Mondays.
Call 845-306-7456 for info or reservations.