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Shampa Khan is making curry in a hurry -- and not just one kind of curry.

The new fast-casual Uni Curry Bowl features Indian (tikka masala), Jamaican, Japanese or Thai curries in its bowls. The bowls, along with the wraps and salads, also boast fresh vegetables and are made from scratch.

Surprisingly, though, the best-seller, according to Khan, is not curry bowls, but rather her biriyani bowls.

“It’s my own recipe,” said Khan, who hails from Bangladesh. “I make the spice for it from scratch. It’s very flavorful. I used 20 different ingredients and do all the roasting and grinding myself.”

Khan and her husband, Nazim, opened Uni Curry Bowl on Feb. 18 at 230 N. 17th St., the former Samurai Sam’s location. Nazim, who also is from Bangladesh, has been the executive chef at Bryan Medical Center since May 2015.

Khan said the restaurant was her idea.

“I come from a big family, so I’m used to feeding a lot of people,” she said. “I guess, you could say, it’s in my blood.”

In creating Uni Curry Bowl, Khan wanted to offer something not readily available to Lincoln diners. Curry dishes are found at many of the city’s full-service Indian and Thai restaurants, but not as a fast-casual option. And no restaurant in Lincoln features the variety of curries.

Plus, many of the dishes are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and halal friendly.

Food

During my visit, my wife ordered a chicken curry bowl ($7.50), choosing brown rice as her starch -- other choices were basmati and soba noodles. She picked Japanese as her curry sauce. I ordered a chicken masala wrap ($6.50), which included lettuce, onions and potatoes along with the curry aioli and was served with a side of thinly sliced, homemade potato chips.

We both enjoyed our meals and found each sauce very flavorful. We both thought, however, our dishes could have been kicked up a notch or two in terms of spice. The veggies were extremely fresh. The roasted potatoes in my wrap were perfect.

There are three kinds of bowls (curry, biriyani and Japanese) and range from $6.95 to $9.79. Each features different protein options such as beef, chicken or tofu. There are also three kinds of wraps (masala, Asian and power) and cost between $4.99 and $7.50. The menu also includes salads and homemade desserts such as mango creme brulee ($2.95), a Nazim Khan-specialty, shahi firni (Shampa’s recipe for rice pudding, $2.95) and carrot halwa, which Shampa said is a delicious carrot cake made without flour. Grade: B+

Dining Uni Curry Bowl

Among the wrap selections at Uni Curry is the chicken masala with house-made chips and pickles. 

Service

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Uni Curry Bowl operates as a fast-casual restaurant, meaning there is not table service. Patrons order at the counter, grab drinks from a nearby cooler and wait for their names to be called when their food is ready. Orders take 5-10 minutes to complete. Ours arrived at the table just short of 10 minutes after ordering.

The menu may be unfamiliar to some patrons, so I suggested pictures of the food on the chalkboard menu. Khan agreed, saying it’s on the to-do list. She also plans to have a digital photo album of sorts at the counter. The website has great photos of the menu items. Grade: B

Atmosphere

The Khans gave the old Samurai Sam’s a facelift. The couple cleaned and repainted the space, using bright vivid colors. The dominant color is red. The restaurant has seating for about 25, with tables and chairs filling up the dining room. One wall is a chalkboard menu, while the others are pretty much bare except for detailed descriptions of the curries. These help explain the differences between the choices. Grade: B

Dining Uni Curry Bowl

Uni Curry Bowl took over the former Samurai Sam's space at 230 N. 17th Street.

Specialty diets

The restaurant includes one vegetarian option in each of its menu categories (salad, wraps and bowls). The curry sauces are nut-free, and three of them (Indian, Thai and Jamaican) are gluten-free. The vegetable lineup, depending on what menu item you select, includes roasted beets, eggplant, roasted potatoes, diced carrots, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, edamame and more -- not your standard fare. Uni Curry Bowl definitely is among the top five restaurants in the city catering to special diets. Grade: A+

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Jeff Korbelik is the tasting room manager at James Arthur Vineyards, former Journal Star features editor and author of “Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska.” He’s been writing restaurant reviews for Ground Zero since 1998.

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Night news editor

I am night news editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.

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