Monday, June 12, 2017

The Quest for Biryani - Paradise

It was a tough decision for me to move to Hyderabad, after living in Delhi-Gurgaon for seven years. Of course I have moved around all my life, but now I was looking forward to a stable life in one place. But life had other plans and once again I am all set to discover yet another city. 

What I have seen of Hyderabad so far, I like. Compared to Delhi, it is quieter; not much traffic on the roads, people are very patient and polite. The food of course, is something I have always loved without even visiting Hyderabad. Who can deny the pre-eminence of dishes such as Hyderabadi Biryani, Haleem, Mirchi ka Salan, Baghara Baingan, Double ka Meetha and Khubani ka Meetha in the foodscape of India. But it is indeed in this city that you get the most authentic versions of these stellar dishes.

To experience the richness of Hyderabadi cuisine, our first stopover was Paradise restaurant, a name I have been hearing a lot over the years. Although experts say there are many more contenders, but Paradise is still a must visit place for traditional biryani, kebabs and other Hyderabadi delicacies.

Although Paradise now has 11 outlets including take-aways spread all over the city, we wanted to start with the original branch in Secunderabad. Situated in an area which is now called Paradise Circle, after you have crossed the Paradise Flyover, you come across this massive three story structure with big hoardings proclaiming itself with pride. It would be difficult to park here. Thankfully there is valet parking available. 

You enter the ground floor and you see on the walls pictures of the Paradise journey and of famous celebrities, filmstars and sportspersons who have visited this place. We are guided to the second floor by very courteous and smiling staff. The second floor transports you to a dimly lit, formalist eatery in the 80s that your parents would take you to once a year with forgettable upholstery and no particular theme in interiors except boring maybe. Clearly the emphasis is only on food here, although everything is clean and hygienic. 

The restaurant is packed with large, decent families on a Saturday afternoon, the kinds that eat out with decorum and dignity(I tell you, the tehzeeb inherent in this place!).The manager too reminds you of a bank manager of the 80s, helpful, gentle and happy to see you. He helped me make the best choices as a first-timer. I was fawning over all the yummy sounding kebabs and was almost about to order 4-5 varieties when he suggested the kebab platter which would suffice. In the main course we settle for one chicken and one mutton biryani although there is a version which offers both(this seems to be a Hyderabad thing-chicken and mutton together in a dish).
Assorted Kebab Platter

The kebabs are truly mind-blowing. Well marinated, tender, smokey and not spicy, they simply melt in the mouth. I personally loved the Kalmi Kebab the most. The biryanis however were ordinary. Having had so many versions of Hyderabadi Biryani outside Hyderabad, can't say I found this out of the world. It kind of passed muster, nothing else. The mint raita was runny and tiny in portion. We had to ask for 2-3 extra bowls as the Mohan family loves its curd but they did give as much as we wanted.

Since the biryani was pretty regular, we ordered dessert, although that wasn't the original plan. One portion each of Double ka Meetha and Khubani ka Meetha amongst the three of us. Both the desserts are absolutely delicious. I had somehow envisioned Double ka Meetha to be similar to Shahi Tukda that we are used to up north. But this was a delicious, rich orangish bread halwa, perfectly moist and sprinkled with dry fruits.
Double ka Meetha
Khubani ka Meetha
There is no condensed milk sauce on top and it isn't required even. Khubani ka Meetha has a lot of texture and layers-sweet, sour, fruity, syrupy and apricot-y! So all in all a satisfying meal. I would certainly go back for the kebabs and desserts, although the restaurant has an extensive 'North Indian' and 'Chinese' dishes menu too! But Biryani? Well, my search for that perfect Hyderabadi Biryani continues.....

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