Where to eat Biryani in Hyderabad?

How do I begin describing Paradise? Its a name that would pop-up at mere mention of word Biryani, specially when talking about Hyderabad. As known a name as it is, it mostly gets bad rep from almost everyone, at least on internet.
Infact if you have to prove you are a Biryani lover, your first start by slamming paradise. Your love for Biryani is directly proportional to how vociferous you are about your disapproval of what paradise serves for Biryani. If you are a bit mild you will still share how its no longer the same it used to be, but then don’t we hear this about almost every legend in any part of India? Few names that get regularly accused of not being the same or overrated – Bade Mian of Bombay, Tunday of Lucknow, Karim’s of Delhi, MTR of Bangalore  – but then I have personally visited them all in last year or two – and no, did not find them to be overrated at all. Food served by all these places has lot of merit (refraining from using the word ‘still’ here), at least in their home branches and in few cases, their other outlets as well.
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Before I went to the Paradise’s outlet on Paradise Circle (Yes! they do give name to a super busy junction in heart of Secunderabad), I did try their Biryani in Bangalore, which I ordered in using some random food delivery app, and I remember having no complains at that time as well.
Biryani, Salan and Khubani ka Meetha
Now coming to Paradise on Paradise circle. The outlet was just 10 minutes walk away from the hotel I was staying, making it a natural choice for my first meal in Land of Biryani. Stepping into the ground floor entrance, was greeted by a metal detector and a guard ready to frisk me, something akin to a big shopping mall. Was also told that ground floor was for takeaway only, and I need to climb up for dining area. Stepped into the first level, saw a few tables, none was empty, walked a little more and saw the dining area open up into space full of tables – all occupied. Thought would have to wait, however was guided to another level with a inconspicuous entrance and sitting area, however once I was inside I was surprised by the sheer size of the hall, number of tables and their occupancy.
Size of the place reminded me of ‘langars’ or public feasts in my native North India. Table after table full of families and groups feasting on their favorite dishes, with Biryani being the common factor on almost all tables. All of them overlooked and served by an army of attentive waiters, supervisors and support staff – all of them looked like they knew their jobs well, that said its not possible to run operations at this scale if the staff is not well trained and organised.
On conversing with a suited booted staffer, who seemed like a section supervisor – I was told that the place can seat 1400 souls at the same time – takeaways and deliveries excluded. It was lunch hour of a working Friday and the place was surprisingly full. But then I was the only one surprised, as the staffer told me that due to Navratras it was ‘only’ houseful, otherwise there usually is a huge waiting for tables. Just to remind you here, that 1400 is not the number of people they serve in a day or in a particular meal time – that is there seating capacity and tables keep moving with new diners occupying them as the previous occupants are done with their fill. More enterprising readers can do their maths now.
The way platter gets served
So far so good, but as someone intelligent said – the proof of pudding is in eating it. Since I was alone, I decided to skip all monkey business in the menu and jumped straight to Biryani – Mutton Dum Biryani to be precise. Did not take long for waiter to bring that to my table, mirchi ka salan and raita came as its partners in crime. Service was courteous enough to serve the same and it did not take more than a few seconds for me to dig my  eager fingers in the source of awesome fragrance on my table.
The moment fingers went in, a smile came out on my face – this was indeed a good biryani, something you can tell just by touching the same. A genuinely good biryani would not leave any traces of oil or fat on your fingers, spices or gravy of any kind should not stick to your fingers. After pleasing my sense of smell, another of my senses was made happy by the Biryani sitting on my table and I was yet to bite into the first morsel. Finally it was turn of my sense of taste, and was it pleased? Hell yeah! As it was experiencing one of the finest dishes it had experienced. Soft succulent pieces of mutton, which were coming apart by bare fingers adding to the aroma and flavor of high quality rice – all brilliantly accentuated by slightly higher than mild spices.
Soft and Succulent Mutton pieces inside fragrant rice.
Served along with it was Mirchi ka Salan and mix vegetable raita. Barely felt the need for salan but occasional bite mixed with raita worked as an excellent cleanser and soother for the palette. Initially the portion size seemed to be too big for one person, however did not feel heavy while eating it or after finishing it off. Infact found it to be so good that had no option but to finish it off.
Mirchi ka Salan
Though was full by end of it, however as they say – there always is a separate stomach for dessert and there was no way I was not ordering Khubani ka Meetha, a dessert made from Apricots, another specialty of Hyderabad.
After that tried Biryani from much legendary Shadab Hotel near Char Minaar and then Veg Biryani from Alpha in Secunderabad. Even though both were amazing in their own right specially the Alpha one and gave Paradise a serious run for its money, however there is no way that they could be termed finer or better that what I have had already eaten at paradise.
Khubani ka Meetha with Ice-cream
If you are a Hyderabadi then I am sure you have a much finer palette and also a local favorite for Biryani, however if you are a food lover looking for genuine Dum Biryani then ignore all naysayers and head straight to Paradise – you will not be disappointed. 

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Dilli Haat – A Showcase of Cuisines of India

India is a diverse country and as they say there is nothing called Indian Cuisine as there is none. However India boasts of a collection on innumerable cuisines and hence the right way to say it is ‘Cuisines of India’. And I don’t think I have met anyone who has tried them all or come even close to it. What the heck, I do not even know how many exist forget about eating or trying them.
But then I am a man of spirit and if I cannot try them all, then I will die trying. I mean yeah! I will keep eating new cuisines all my life.. 😛
On a serious note a serious foodie can get a glimpse of various foods that India has to offer right here in Delhi by visiting the canteens of the state bhawan or making some visits to Dilli Haat near the INA market in South of Delhi. And this weekend we ended up there on our quest for legendary Raja Mircha, dishes based on this fiery chilly from North-East of India are available at the Nagaland Stall of Delhi Haat.
On this visit we ended up sampling food from Maharashtra, Nagaland, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan and were surprised by the quality and authenticity of the food at all of them food stalls. While they may not be at 100% authenticity levels, however if they can serve reasonable food or 70% auethentic in Delhi, then for me they are a resounding success.
1. Nagaland Stall – Pork Raja Mircha, Chicken Raja Mircha, Bamboo Shoots and Mushroom, Fried Rice, Pork Steamed Momos, Chicken Steamed Momos, Veg Steamed Momos, Veg Steamed rice which are served with Dry fish and chilli chutney. Both the Raja Mircha dishes were awesome, we actually felt the power of the legend.

Chicken Naga Mircha
Chicken, Pork and Veg Momos with Clear Soup
Mushroom and Bamboo Shoots
Vegetarian Fried Rice
Steamed rice with Dry fish Chutney
Pork Naga Mircha

2. Maharashtra Stall – This is a Vegetarians paradise. Vada Pao, Dabheli, Sev Puri, Thalipeeth, kohlapuri Dhapata, Sabudana vada, Pao Bhaji, Kokum sharbat etc. you get them all and then some more. The pao they use was not your usual industrial Harvest Gold types, however something very close to its Mumbaiya counterpart. That said, they can serve industrial paos when they run out of stock.

Dabheli
Kohlapuri Dhapata
Kokum Sharbat
Ragda Pattice
Vadao pao and Dabheli
Sev Puri
Vada Pao
3. West Bengal Stall – I guess its run by Bijoli Grill and they seem to have another restaurant somewhere in South of Delhi. We tried Kosha Mangsho, Fish Orley, Radhavallabhi, Chonar Dal and almost all of them desserts including Rasogulla, Gur Rasogulla, Rajbhog, Sandesh and Malpua. Fish Orley stood out for me, Kosha Mangsho or Kassa maas is a Mutton dish and must try for mutton lovers. Radhavallabhi is a dish that I am sure would go down well with traditional Delhi Chhole Puri/Bhature and Bedmi Aloo loving janta. Its like a maida ki poori, stuffed with some dal, served with Dum Aloo with their own unique flavors… and its called Radhaballabhi.

Fish Orley
Mal Pua
Patishapta 
RadhaVallabhi
Raj Bhog
Sandesh
Kosha Mangsho
4. Andhra Pradesh Stall – Ordered one handi each of Veg and Mutton biryani, mirchi ka salan is available as separate dish. Not sure how authentic it was, would be keen on hearing other opinions.

Handi of Mutton Biryani
Mirchi ka Saalan
Mutton Biryani
Handi of Veg. Biryani

5. Rajasthan Stall – On this visit has only kadha Doodh and desi ghee ki jalebi from their, however have earlier tried their Dal Baati combo, pyaz kachori and dal kachori too. Again not comparable to when you can get in Rajsthan, still very good.

Kadha hua Dhoodh in Kullad
Momos from Rajasthan stall
Jalebi
Mirch Vada
Desi Ghee ka Dal Halwa
Aloo ki Trikki
Kachoris

Besides that Delhi haat is very well known for its Momos and Fruit beer, available almost at all the stalls, have tried the combo several times, so decided to skip this time. 

Be careful on on Sundays and other holidays when they get extremely busy, the food quality might take a hit.
Would also be keen on hearing other food experiences from Dilli Haat, do share them in the comments.

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Southie Lunch at Spice Water Trail

Being a South Indian, I dislike eating south Indian food in any form, especially when there are 3 awesome south Indian cooks in my home. I find it puzzling when people PAY to eat south indian food. I personally feel that Upma is the worst creation by mankind and I still cannot believe that an Upma dish won that Indian chef some million dollars (Holy mother of god). My mum too expressed displeasure when she found this out because she is actually capable of dishing out atleast 365 varieties of Upmas to torture me every day of the year.
So IF I HAVE to eat south Indian (read – pestering by friends and me finally relenting) then I insist on eating the authentic. I cannot stand when people drag me to eat Masala Dosa or Upma or worse Idli (ooo god). (There are other things in madrasi khana too, people, apart from masala dosa and idli)
So there have been quite a many decent South Indian outlets which serve decent authentic food. There’s Andhra Bhavan (by far cheapest and best andhra food I have had and being a native of andhra, I can distinguish my gongoora from my aavakaai – i’ll wait until you google).
Then there is Swagath (Gurgaon among other places), Sagar (def col), Tamil Nadu house canteen, Karnataka Bhavan, Saravana Bhawan, Zambar, Zunpowder and I could go and on.
So this weekend I went to eat at a place called Spice Water Trail in GK1 because frankly I was sick of eating Chinese and Italian for lunch. So somehow, in a bout of amnesia, I decided to go with my friend and eat south indian food. It first caught my attention due to its different name and the outside wall which was painted orange. So cool.
First of all, the ambiance. It is, well, south Indian. There are bells and bell shaped things hanging, big wooden pillars in the middle. Quite comfy and totally non-intimidating. I hate places where I feel that I am under dressed. This is completely opposite. Quite warm and nice. The place opens up at 12.30 and serves till 10 in the night, I guess. It plays south Indian instrumental music (violin, mandolin etc), apt for the surroundings. But after looking at me and my friend, they changed the music to  trance. I told them to change it back and thankfully it was back on.
And it serves Mangalorean, Andhra and Tamilian cuisine.
Being vegetarians, we had limited choice but still were determined to make the most of it. So for starters we ordered Vaazhapoo Cutlet (yes i memorized the name). It is banana flower (yes flower) mixed with different kinds of dals and rolled into a cutlet. And as an accompaniment, we had Coconut Water.

For the main course, we ordered a Pumpkin Elliseri (pumpkin in grated coconut curry. Kerala cuisine I think) and Ghee Rice.

The four Chutneys
While we were waiting for our food to arrive, there was papad and 4 most awesomest chutneys to give us company. The papad was rice papad (typical to southie cuisine and quite nice) and the chutneys.. OOOO MY GOOOOOOD. Four most awesome chutneys in front of me in 4 cups. It was sheer brilliance. The first chutney was a coconut chutney, the second was mint and coriander chutney, third was onion chutney and the fourth and the most brilliant of them all, was some kind of dal and tamarind chutney. All these chutneys had so many different flavors going on and neither of them tasted like the other which was so perfect.

 

While I was wolfing down papad after papad (with the chutneys of course), I reminded myself of the awesome meal that was waiting for me. So I stopped after 2 papads. (or was it 3, I don’t remember).
Papad with chuntney
Soon after our starters came. The banana flower cutlet. It was unlike any other cutlet I have ever eaten. What a beauty. It was super crispy on the outside and soft and brittle on the inside. I was surprised how they managed to fry it without breaking it. Now while eating south Indian food, there are always a million delicate flavours at play and the same goes for this cutlet too. So many spices, flavours inside my mouth. And with the chutneys, it was as if an atom bomb full of delicate and wonderful flavours was blasting inside my mouth. And with a bit of lemon, it became superlative. As soon as I took the first bite, I forgot the outside world (and even my friend for 5 minutes) and concentrated on the plate in front of me.

After finishing the cutlets, came the main course. It was pumpkin (seetafal) in coconut based curry. The pumpkin was cooked to perfection but the pieces retained their original shape. (I love when chefs are able to do that). Again it came with a million flavors but completely different from the ones in the cutlet. This was coconuty and had flavors like dhania (that saabut dhaniya thingy, I asked my mum), and asafoetida (heeng) and curry leaves, mirchi (red one) and other spices. It was a little sweet (because of the pumpkin) a little hot, and a whole lot flavorful.

Banana Flower Cutlet

The Ghee rice was a perfect accompaniment in case you are a rice eater (chef’s recommendation when we were thinking of ordering lemon rice), although aapam would also be perfect with this curry.

While we had a Tamilian starter and a Keralite curry in the main course, we wanted something from Andhra too. So I asked for “Gongoora” an Andhra pickle which went perfectly well with the rice and the curry. The pickle is made from a leaf and it is a little tangy and pickly and with tamarind, it was just brilliant and perfect. (I know, I am running out of adjectives).

Pumpkin  in coconut gravy and ghee rice
Even though the options are limited for vegetarians (as always, Hmmph), but they make special effort for it to be a treat. As for the non vegetarians, I saw two ladies carrying LV bags and wearing stilettos and ordering prawn curry and chicken chettinad and literally licking their hands and plates.
The coconut water was extremely fresh and refreshing and cool. It was as if they were freezing coconuts inside the freezer and took them out when asked. It wasn’t that sweet though, but refreshing enough.
The staff is extremely sweet and ever smiling and will point out if you are ordering too many things with the same flavor. So listen to them when they tell you not to order lemon rice with the pumpkin curry. The price range is modest and the portions are good too. All that we ordered was for Rs. 850 but VAT killed us and the overall bill was for Rs. 1150. Quite decent for 2 people.
I truly enjoyed my tryst with south Indian food for lunch. In case you are bored with the usual bread, burger, roti, paneer, pasta, go try this place for something flavorful and delicate and experience something truly delightful.