Of Coconuts and Curry

A new Indian restaurant specializes in the food of the coast

Gajalee's menu isn't like that of other Indian restaurants.

Sure, there are some workhorses, like samosas and chicken tikka masala, but what is so distinctive and compelling about this new Valencia Street restaurant are the Konkani- and Goan-style dishes, native to the west coast of India.

The two signature ingredients of the region's cuisine, coconuts and seafood, come together in the fish Malvani masala ($13), a multilayered sea bass curry with a tomato base fortified by spices and roasted coconut flesh.

Coconut is also an integral ingredient in the xaccuti, a fiery Goan dry curry that can be ordered with fish ($13), chicken ($11) or lamb ($12), and contains white poppy seeds, red chiles and a pantry's worth of spices.

To tame the heat of the xaccuti, order sol kadi ($3), a classic drink of Western India that combines coconut milk, dried sour kokum fruit (a relative of the mangosteen), salt and garlic into a refreshing, savory beverage.

For the time being, these are our favorite dishes. But soon chile crab will be added to the menu, along with appam, a crêpe-like creation made with coconut milk–and we'll answer Gajalee's siren song once again.

Gajalee, 525 Valencia St. (at 16th St.); 415-552-9000