I’ve promised to bring you the back alleys of Suzhou and today we are focusing on one of those hidden gems that give a city its soul. We are going to visit a great dive restaurant (in the best way) located way off the beaten path.
Kamal’s Indian Restaurant isn’t for everyone but it is the kind of place that I really love. Long time readers know that I love a dive and Kamal’s could define my kind of dive. It’s a small, no frills, good eats, a little dirty, come as you are, and inexpensive place that is run by a salt of the earth character.
Now I should be clear, Kamal’s is not for everyone. If you are prim and proper, require perfect food safety standards, need a certain level of luxury or live in a safe plastic wrapped existence, this place is not for you. However, if you are all about the adventure and spice of life, Kamal’s is definitely worth a trip.
My new friend, G, invited me to come meet her and her friends Kamel’s and I thank her for pointing this corner of Suzhou that I would’ve never found by myself. When we get to the directions section, you’ll understand. Enough qualifiers, on with the review!
Kamal’s Indian Restaurant
Location: Some back alley near Xiangmen station on line 1 and Soochow University. I’ll go into specific details at the end of the review.
This is quality Indian food. What I like best about the cuisine here is the home cooking quality of the food. It tastes like someone’s Indian mother or father has been preparing the food in their kitchen all day. It’s complex, well rounded and balanced. The food doesn’t have that assembled taste that you find at many restaurants. My only complaint (as well as my friend G’s) is that the food isn’t spicy enough. Kamal could easily take the heat and spices up a few levels and it would take the food from pretty damn good to wow.
Decor and ambiance: 8 (or 2)
Kamal gets 6 bonus points for being a total dive. If you’re not into dives, then it gets a 2.
Kamal’s a friendly guy. It’s a tiny shop. You will be taken care of and left alone. Word on the street is that if you add Kamal on WeChat, you can let him know you are coming and he will make you what you want. Plus, this is an Indian restaurant so English away.
You can only order what Kamal has cooked for the day (unless you WeChat in an order). I think that’s great but I’m an old restaurant insider and am kind of a weirdo when it comes to menus. Just know there is only about 5 things available on given day. You’re also looking at Chinese levels of sanitation. Good thing it’s cold outside so it doesn’t really matter that much right now.
This place is a bargain – as any good dive should be. Probably 20 – 30 RMB for a complete meal. We had a ton of food and it was 70 RMB.
Overall: 8.5 (pro-dive rating)
I will definitely be back and add Kamal’s to the regular rotation. I only wish he’d take spice level up a notch.
1) Take subway line 1 to the Xiangmen station. Get off at exit 1 (at the main gate of Soochow University).
2) Cross the bridge that goes over the moat/river that surrounds old Suzhou.
3) At the end of the bridge, you will see this unusual sidewalk formation. TURN RIGHT.
4) You will go down a small hill and enter a street market. Walk through the street market until you pass a Muslim restaurant and some guys making chuan on the streets. Just look for the restaurant that looks like a mosque, you can’t miss it. Walk past the guys cooking kabobs and TURN LEFT down the alley with the bike shop pictured below.
5) Go down the alley about 50m until you come to this:
You can’t miss it. And after you get your Indian food on, you can do a little street shopping in the market. Win-win.