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CHEAP EATS

Since discovering Kabab & Curry, the Pakistani-Indian restaurant on Transit Road in Amherst, I've made the pilgrimage at least a half-dozen times. Driving that far for lunch is daunting, though, so I was thrilled to see the Kabab & Curry logo on a University Heights storefront, near Englewood Avenue.

Now people at the University at Buffalo South Campus can easily enjoy the restaurant's Pakistani-Indian food. The bad news is that it's not the full menu, but dishes ferried over from the main restaurant.

It's still worth a visit, because some excellent dishes are better than none. Somehow the Matar paneer (cheese cubes in spiced cream with peas) and chicken makhni (chicken breast in spiced tomato cream) taste just as splendid spooned up from a warming pan.

We decided to sample most of the dishes available on a Saturday afternoon, by ordering them as part of three "special" combinations, all with rice. A mango lassi, the yogurt drink, ($1.99) was fruity, cool and a rich accompaniment.

The chicken special ($8.99) was a bowl of the chicken makhni, with sauce that tasted like luxurious cream of tomato soup with a Bollywood accent. The chunks of chicken breast were carried by the sauce, and would have been better fired on a grill first. Tandoori chicken was smoky from the heat but tender, with fire-softened onions.

The vegetarian special ($7.99) brought a bowl of matar paneer, with a mildly spiced aromatic sauce that you want to soak into the rice. The other vegetable dish was the classic channa masala, curried chickpeas, presented in a healthy portion.

The biryani special ($6.99) offered a heap of mildly spiced rice with chunks of tender chicken. Perhaps because of its long journey from kitchen to table, the rice lacked the aroma that can make biryani intoxicating.

That was the only real downer, and even that disappointment was limited by the pair of small potato samosas, flaky fried pastries, that came with the biryani. With spicy mint chutney and tangy-sweet tamarind sauces, the samosas vanished quickly.

Plus, the biryani comes with a choice of dessert. We chose the kheer, rice pudding topped with a sprinkle of crushed pistachio nuts.

Kabab and Curry Express is open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a. m.-9 p. m., Saturday, 12:30 p. m.-9:30 p. m., closed Sunday. It is handicapped accessible with street parking.

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Kabab & Curry Express

3268 Main St.

832-3822

3 1/2 pennies (out of four)

"Fast, exotic eats"

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