Brick Lane Curry House

“Phaal:  An excrutiatingly hot, more pain and sweat than flavor.  For our customers who do this on a dare, we require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry.”  Actual warning on the menu at Brick Lane Curry House

The lure of the phaal, Brick Lane Curry House (photo by MJ Byers)


Eatery:   Brick Lane Curry House, 308 E. 6th Street, New York, NY

I completely understand Brick Lane Curry House making marketing hay out of its too-hot-to-handle (literally) phaal.  In a city and country not especially accustomed to very spicy fare, it’s a point of differentiation – especially against the myriad of other Indian/curry restaurants that can be found on what some folks call Curry Mile in New York City.  It’s not a mile, really – it’s a block in the East Village, on 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues (with a spillover along both avenues) where there is no shortage of curry from which to choose.   While none of these particularly stack up to the best curry houses of London (the restaurant takes its name from a street there that is positively loaded with such establishments), Brick Lane Curry House is a good solid choice among them.

Which is why, from a strictly culinary standpoint, it’s a shame that the restaurant is defined by phaal (though hats off to them for effective marketing – it does seem to bring people in the door).  This restaurant offers some of the better Indian fare to be found in New York City, bursting with lovely flavor and spices.  Both the Tikka Masala and the Madras are noteworthy, with the former delivering a little bit of a heat kick – a welcome surprise for what is typically quite a mild dish.


Chicken Tikka Masala at Brick Lane Curry House (photo by MJ Byers)

Chicken Madras at Brick Lane Curry House (photo by MJ Byers)

And, yes, I’ve tried the phaal.  I was the lone American amongst a group of Brits sharing one order, sensibly only sampling a tiny bit on a corner of naan bread while the more foolhardy among us (including Husband, engaging in an entertainingly weird show of machismo) consumed larger portions……and were very sad in the aftermath.  The menu warning is accurate – this is not a tasty dish, but is simply hot for the sake of being hot.  It was the hottest thing any of us had ever tasted – like taking a jalapeno pepper and multiplying it by 10. And, to think, all they offer you is a free bottle of beer in exchange for actually finishing off the dish.  Oh…and your name on the “Ph’all of Fame”.  And a Certificate of Honor.   Yay.

If you are goofy enough to try tackling the “Phaal Challenge”, here is a tip:  skip the beer and have a lassi instead – the dairy makes this beverage a much more effective heat-quencher for your between-bite respites.  And make sure you have plenty of napkins on hand for your tears and sweat.

Price:  Curries range from $15 – $21, depending on your choice of meat or veg.

Destination Meal:  Yes.

Fat/Calorie Worthy:  Absolutely.

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