Well, after an unexpected break (no pun intended) from writing I am finally back at it. Before, you get too concerned — no I did not end my love affair with Asian food. I got into a fight with a mountain while snowboarding shortly after my last post and lost. Was this karma for the savage destruction of that horrible Tulsa, OK Establishment? Did someone hire an African witch doctor to cast a curse on me? Is there an Andrew voodoo doll? Is Ted Cruz the Zodiac Killer? The world may never know.
Moral of the story is always wear protection and don’t fuck with mother nature. Now that my paws are operational again and the hunger is back, let’s get down to business.
An iconic New York institution with the cuisine to match.
Brick Lane Curry House is an iconic New York institution with the cuisine to match. They currently have 5 restaurants across New York and New Jersey. Since literally no one wants to go to New Jersey that gives us 3 locations in Midtown, Downtown and the Upper East Site to visit. I cannot speak to the other locations but the Midtown one is fantastic!
Brick Lane is a bit of an anomaly in the domestic Indian scene in that it is primarily a British style curry house rather than a true Indian establishment. They serve a pretty impressive array of curries and dishes from both India and the United Kingdom. The vision for this restaurant is to be the best alternative to getting your fix on this side of the pond. (Note: Less Charlie Sheen “getting a fix” definition and more in the I have an inner fat kid who wants to eat everything “fix”).
Each of the different locations appears to have a bit of a different vibe and decor to them. The Midtown location, has a very homey feel to it. In typical New York City fashion, patrons have a full view of the ambiance the city life provides right from their table. They’ve somehow managed to pull off a casual but “home cooked” vibe which creates the perfect ambiance and atmosphere to enjoy their impressive menu.
I’ll cover the rest of the menu a bit later but would like to start with their major claim to fame and what truly separates them apart from every other restaurant in the country is that they are one of the only (if not THE only) restaurants in the nation to serve Phaal Curry. My first and only taste of Phaal came during a trip to Manchester, UK. We stopped at a place called Shere Khan on the Curry Mile and had a truly memorable experience. In fact, now I want to go back to the Curry Mile. (Pro Tip: Places in England hate it when you wear “trainers” or are American). Unfortunately, I have not be able to find that dish again until now. Fortunately, I am still an American and rock Nike High Tops. So, carpe that fucking diem kids.
Phaal Curry roughly translates in Latin to “The Taste of Pain”. (This is not true, at all). In all seriousness, Phaal Curry is THE HOTTEST curry generally available for consumption. This dish has been featured in a plethora of food challenges and TV shows including Man vs. Food. This curry measures ONE MILLION units on the Scoville Scale. For reference, this is 200 times hotter than Tabasco. I could not possibly put into words how spicy and demented this dish is — but that’s what we are here for so I’ll try.
Phaal Curry is described on Brick Lane’s menu as “an excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor. For our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry.” Oddly enough, dating Chris Brown comes with this same disclaimer. (Too soon?). Let me be the first to tell you that this description is completely accurate. Anyone who manages to finish the dish earns a spot in their Phaal of Fame and receives a certificate of honor and a free Kingfisher. It’s the least they could do to help you cope with your next 48 hours of crying.
To give you some context into just what sort of animal we are dealing with one must understand how Phaal Curry is actually made.
Yes, what you are seeing is real. In order to make this dish the chefs have to wear gas masks for their protection. The shocking thing about this is that each bowl is made using only 8 chilis. Yet, this specific dish has left diners vomiting, hallucinating, crying and in 2 cases — rushed to the hospital. Like everything in life, it’s all about quality and not quantity. In an effort to promote transparency I should note that one of these chilis is the Bhut Naga Jolokia (Ghost Chili) which is used to make Tear Gas by the Indian Military. So, you know you’re in for a good time.
Now that we have set the stage properly for what we are dealing with I’m sure you are wondering just what the hell this thing tastes like. For just a moment, imagine that you are taking a shower in ignited gasoline while hearing Hilary Clinton talk in the middle of Death Valley on a random day in July. No matter how much you stop, drop, and roll the burning won’t stop. Yeah, it’s that fucked up. Maybe I’m a masochist but the flavor was actually quite good once you peeled back the layers of burning, however you will hit a point whereby you cannot taste anything other than heat. (Pro Tip: Be sure to enjoy this flavor during your first few bites because you’ll be too busy crying and contemplating drinking bleach after that.)
Now, the trick to this dish is to Naan Stop (sorry couldn’t resist). Seriously, don’t. This is one of those spices that doesn’t immediately jump out and ask for attention but rather gradually builds into a dangerous situation over time. The closet psychotic girlfriend of curries if you will. The downside to that is the arrogance it will give the diner initially. Rest assured, like attending coachella — once the build up kicks in your body will respond accordingly. Almost immediately, my eyes started watering, I got hiccups and my entire insides began to burn. Nothing a little Mango Lassi can’t fix right? Wrong.
I spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to take this thing down. It was an unstoppable force. Once it got started, there was no amount of lassi, raita or naan that was going to make things better. The only remedy was father time. In my life I’ve only ever had one other dish that I was unable to eat (see Mint Indian Bistro Inferno Curry Challenge) so I was determined to not double that figure. I came out of the gate strong but made the mistake of stopping for air. One thing to note about this dish is that it is deceptively huge. It is a full 16 ounces of anrgy fire borne curry. I made the mistake of helping to myself to 2 of their massive samosas to start so I was battling both fullness and Satan’s wrath.
Here’s the part where I was planning to post my picture in the Phaal of Fame with certificate but…..
I’ve now got two defeats on my record :-(. I know, I know. I’ve brought shame to my lineage and there’s only one way to restore honor…. I was able to get through just slightly above half of it before throwing in the towel. Thanks to the 2 Mango Lassis and Garlic Naan for the assist on that one. To be fair, I do think fullness played a bit into it in addition to the major contributing factor which is the regime of evil occupying my mouth. For that reason I’ll be giving this a go again in the next couple of months with no Samosas to see how much better I can fare! For those that want to take the “just the tip” approach, Brick Lane also let’s patrons order just a side order of the sauce for their experimentation.
Now that we got that nonsense out of the way, let’s focus on the attractions the 99% will love. The entire rest of the menu.
The samosas were fantastic. Seriously — the crust, texture, spices everything was perfect. This picture does not do them just either. These things are MASSIVE. We’re talking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s fist massive. Unless you’re an inner fatty like me, bring a friend because 2 of these is a whole meal.
Being a more British inspired establishment they do have the crowd favorite Tikka Masala which is great. However, the standout curry for me on their list is the Vindaloo. It has a bit of a bite to it but it is a perfectly executed Vindaloo with just the right amount of spiciness battling the bitterness.
All, in all, Brick Lane Curry House is a top notch and world renowned Brit-Indian restaurant. Not only is it quality food and ingredients, but they have the service to match and offer their cuisine at a solid price point as far as NYC cuisine goes. If you so happen to find yourself in the New York City area (yes I am refusing to mention New Jersey) please do yourself a favor and stop in.