by Damon Noisette // photos by Agnes Lopez
Chef Howard Kirk of 13 Gypsies felt Riverside was in need of a curry shop—and he wasn’t wrong—so when the small restaurant space at the corner of Stockton and Myra streets became available, he moved quickly. His creation, Foo Dog Curry Traders, boasts a Southeast Asian and Indian-inspired menu of house-made curries, rice and noodle dishes that should satisfy virtually every dietary persuasion. Vegetarian and vegan diners will rejoice at the fact that all of Foo Dog’s vegan dishes are prepared in a separate area of the kitchen and all of the entrées can be made vegan as well.
Foo dogs, the guardian lions immortalized as statues in front of ancient Chinese temples and palaces, eventually made their way across Asia and stand as ornate and menacing statues and masks in front of many entranceways as symbols of protection and support. They now cover the walls inside Foo Dog Curry Traders, where a number of the masks come from Kirk’s own collection and antique shops across the Southeast.
When available, the salt and pepper calamari ($10) is an excellent starter. The rings are battered and fried to a lovely golden brown and come with a sambal mayo dipping sauce. Also fried and tasty, the zucchini fritters ($7) are paired with a basil mayo and come well seasoned. There are also bánh mì spring rolls ($8) and vegetable samosas ($8).
For those not afraid of a little heat, Foo Dog’s house chicken curry ($12) delivers a nostril-opening kick over jasmine rice. The same can be said of the chickpea and spinach masala ($11/$13), a savory vegan dish that is surprisingly substantial and filling. A flaky and lightly fried crispy cod with green curry ($13) is another hearty, gluten-free option.
On the non-curry side of the menu, the vinegary house-pickled okra fried rice can be augmented with chicken, pork, beef or tofu ($11/$13). The same can be done with most of the dishes, like the vegetable noodle adobo ($12/$14). And while the Spam fried rice ($11) definitely isn’t vegan or vegetarian, it is gluten-free.
Foo Dog also has an assortment of interesting imported canned drinks. Probably the most out-there example is the Bidrico Bird’s Nest Drink ($1.50), which is made from ingredients like actual bird’s nests, silver mushroom and sugar candy, and claims to restore health and create soft skin among other things. It’s a lightly sweet drink with a milky texture that very well may taste like the nest of a swiftlet.