Brick Lane Curry House – I Phought the Phaal

Some people skydive to get their thrills. Some people race cars, or even shoplift.


I eat food so spicy that even Adam Richman threw in the towel.

Brick Lane Curry House is an English style curry house. This means that it has a huge menu with classic British-Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi, and naan. It also has phaal, which is listed on the 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. If you do manage to finish your serving, a bottle of beer is on us, as is a certificate of completion and your picture in the (P)hall of fame.”

It is considered by many to be the spiciest dish in NYC, so hot that all flavor is obscured and those who eat it are solely doing so because they are masochistic.

So, of course, I had to do it.

The restaurant is just what you imagine in an Indian restaurant – sitar music playing, cloth napkins, servers carrying burnished bowls of curry and biryanis. The vibe is one you have seen a thousand times before, and it is welcome every time. It is equally good for families, a group of friends, or even a date.

Maybe not a first date. Unless you are really sure that the other person will be turned on by seeing you snarf down smelly Indian food.

Pappadums and Chutneys

Each table is brought a crisp, lentil infused pappadum and a selection of chutneys – sweet tamarind, fragrant cilantro, and fresh tomato and onion. The basket is not incredible, but it is welcome and introduces you to the pungent, tangy flavors that will permeate the rest of the meal

Lamb Samosas

The measure by which I judge any Indian restaurant. The samosas arrived piping hot, and the flaky exterior broke open to reveal minced lamb and juicy peas. The aromas were of cinnamon, cumin, and the slight sweetness of fennel. The lamb was mild, with just enough gaminess to counteract the sweet tomato chutney served alongside.

These are some of the best samosas in the city, and I could make a meal of these alone.

Onion Kulcha

Fluffy, hearty, stuffed with sweet onions, this bread is not only delicious, but necessary to sop up the many sauces.

Saag Paneer

A generous portion of creamed spinach served with soft, creamy paneer. This Indian farmer’s cheese has the mild taste of cream cheese and the texture of soft tofu, and is a welcome accompaniment to the garlicky spinach. This dish is ideal for anyone who loves creamed spinach or is new to Indian food – there is no pervasive cumin or ginger flavor, and the spinach is so thick and savory that it is a main dish all on its own.

Now, for the main event…

Chicken Phaal

At first glance, this looked like chicken mole. A few peppers, a few scattered seeds…meh, I can handle that.  And, at first, I could. The aroma was smoky and a little spicy with red pepper, and at first bite chicken was moist and tender. At first it was a bit spicy and deep, like chipotle peppers. I became brave and took another spoonful of sauce. Then, it started. The burn flooded the insides of my cheeks,   then my lips. It went from a slight prickle to an insistent burn, and by the time that it stretched to the back of my throat it was an all out pounding, scraping, insistent burn. I was sweating and my nose was running. I was miserable. But beneath the misery…I was in heaven. The sauce was layered with ginger, coriander, and cumin. The spice made my heart beat faster and gave me a sort of high – I was drunk off the pleasure and the pain. Forget 50 Shades of Grey…you want hot, this is hot. Even a spoonful of cool raita couldn’t cool it.

Needless to say, I couldnt’ finish it. My raw, throbbing tongue and chapped lips made me give up. I got not beer. No certificate. No honor. But the very cheap prices, excellent service, and really wonderful food ensure that I will be back, and soon. That certificate will be mine.

You won the battle, Phaal, but not the war. I’ll be back.

Brick Lane Curry House on Urbanspoon


  1. You are batshit crazy and I love it.

  2. I love the possibility of “emotional” damage. I don’t even want to know what that means.

    I have yet to eat Indian food since my arrival here, and I want some. I wonder if this should be the place.

    BTW Liz bought 50 Shades of Grey two weeks ago and read it in remarkable time. She then went back and bought the two sequels. The other night I went to bed before her and woke up in the morning and she was not in bed. I went out and she was on the couch. “I read until 3 AM and I fell asleep on the couch.”


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