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Sarojani Malakar (left) serves chicken curry to customer John Huynh (right) as his wife Carol Huynh starts on her wrap at Cafe X-Press located at 206 Apperson Drive in Salem, Virginia on Thursday. Sarojani has owned the restaurant with her husband Prakash for just over a year. John and Carol are frequent customers. "I love it. Carol and I come here several times a week. This place is like family. And the amount of food you get on your plate is like two meals", said John.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Prakash and Sarojani Malakar opened Cafe X-press on Apperson Drive in Salem about a year ago. Prakash takes pride in his menu at this New York-style deli, explaining that he serves healthy food that contains no preservatives. He is responsible for all food preparations while Sarojani, his wife, is in charge of serving and taking care of customers, which she does extremely well.
During my travels to New York, I’ve had the pleasure of dining in some of the city’s deli-style restaurants. When I first walked into Cafe X-press, I felt like I was back in the Big Apple.
The cramped space offers six tables and four bar stools at a counter, where Prakash can be seen preparing each meal in the open kitchen. A deli case filled with an assortment of nonalcoholic beverages and cold salads greets diners at the front of the deli, which is typical of this type of restaurant.
The menu consists of sandwiches and subs ranging in price from $4.25 to $6.25. Burgers and grilled paninis are $4.95 to $6.25, while vegetarian options and salad platters run $4.50 to $6.50. Each day, Cafe X-press offers a lunch special that is not on the menu.
A limited breakfast menu consisting of sandwiches, bagels, three-egg omelets and breakfast platters is available daily from 7 to 11 a.m., with a price range of 75 cents to $5.50.
On our first visit, my daughter and I were quickly greeted by Sarojani Malakar, who immediately took our drink order and explained the daily special. I couldn’t resist ordering the special, which was curry chicken served with rice pilaf, curried cauliflower and chick peas ($8.99). My daughter chose the hand-cut french fries ($2.25/small) and Buffalo wings ($5.95 for eight).
Our meals, although prepared to order, arrived very quickly. The food was piping hot and the portion sizes were more than satisfying. The magnificent curry sauce, which had a touch of spicy heat, complemented the tender and moist chicken chunks and vegetables. The fluffy rice was perfectly cooked and the cauliflower seasoned with curry powder was the perfect accompaniment to the dish.
My daughter was expecting a saucy wing, but these were fried to a crunchy golden brown. However, they were well-seasoned and we agreed they were good. The hand-cut, skin-on fries stood out on their own with their crunchy exterior and creamy center.
On another visit, I ordered the Angus bacon cheeseburger ($5.95) with a side of Oriental noodles ($1.75). My dining partners decided on a Greek salad ($6.50) and a Washington steak panini ($5.95) topped with onions and melted Muenster cheese. We added cheddar cheese to the panini and asked that the red peppers be left off. Finally, we asked for a large order of fries ($3.25) to share.
Considering that the deli was near capacity, our food arrived in an acceptable amount of time — about 15 minutes. My Angus burger, which sat on a grilled Kaiser roll with fresh lettuce, tomato and onion, was juicy and cooked to a perfect medium-well. The cold noodle salad provided an explosion of sesame flavor for my taste buds.
My companion loved the steak panini, which was loaded with shaved beef and gooey cheese stuffed between two slices of herbed focaccia bread. My other guest was very pleased with the portion size and freshness of the greens and other vegetables in the Greek salad, which was covered with an ample amount of feta cheese and black olives. We all indulged in the french fries, which were more than enough to feed three people.
The bottom line
Cafe X-press, a little gem tucked away on Apperson Drive beside a Liberty gas station, is well worth a visit. Don’t be surprised if the place is packed when you go, because the locals seem to have discovered the delicious fare that is being created in Salem’s own New York-style deli.
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