306-308 East 6th Street on Second Avenue
about $200 for five, without drinks, without tip
I’ve never heard of phaal until it made the Omnivore’s Hundred from verygoodtaste.co.uk. From that site’s must-eat list, I checked off 75 items that I’ve tasted and eaten. Among the other 25 is phaal, or phall, a South Indian curry dish that is supposedly spicier than the more familiar vindaloo. I was intrigued.
My co-workers wanted to order lunch delivery and Brick Lane Curry House’s menu satisfied the meat eaters plus the vegan and vegetarians among us. It took about an hour for the food to come and when we opened the lids of the containers, I have to admit I was very disappointed at the small amount of food. The lamb chops, infused with tamarind, ginger and garlic, while tender and tasty, were small and didn’t hold up to my growling stomach. I had to compensate by eating extra portions of rice. I only had a small taste of the vegetarian and the vegan curries, and I couldn’t tell the difference from the two sauces except for the fact that the vegan version had a smattering of white onions. The Goan fish dish was the best in the mix with its green chiles and coconut flavor enhanced by vinegar. Was it buttery? Oh, yes, it was.
Now back to the phaal, exaggerated by the restaurant as an “excruciatingly hot curry” but correctly described as “more pain and sweat than flavor”. Need to know more than that? When the sauce hits your tongue, you get the sting right away and then it sits and slowly burrows. (Un)fortunately, as soon as your tongue goes numb, the spiciness is replaced by bitterness, and at that point, all you want is either some more rice or more Goan fish curry. Michael above, though, talks about how it hit his sinus right away; he didn’t even feel the spiciness in his tongue.
I’ve had my share of spicy food, and up to this day, nothing beats the pickled Scotch Bonnet peppers I had in the Big Corn Island in Nicaragua. Go taste the phaal for yourself at Brick Lane Curry House and get a free bottle of beer when you finish a whole serving on your own.