At last, an authentic and exclusive Hyderabad restaurant in town. pathar ka gosht, mirchi ka salan, bagare baingan, kache gosht ki biryani, food from the royal kitchens of the Nizams and of Salar Jung. The restaurant is called Nizam's Heritage, and it is located at Hotel Heritage, Victoria Road, Byculla, next to Gloria Church. Sunith Pai, who has made such a success of Viva Paschim (have you tried his Kole fare?), is running the place. It is a pleasant, bright restaurant, a blue-green interior, the walls with archival material from Hyderabad, waiters dressed in the Nizami banquet dress, and brass service dishes warmed with solid fuel from Muradabad. At one end is a display kitchen, sealed in glass, where you may view the pathar gosht being sizzled. Says Mr. Pai, it is to let the customers know we are not doing the pathar gosht on tawa. Nor are short-cuts taken over the other dishes, they are all authentic.
Let's start the banquet. There's a bar upstairs, Deccan Bar, you may or may not visit it. The food: four shorbas (chicken, mutton, tamatar and dal), several kebabs, fish tikkas, bhunaoed gurda kaleji, jhinge zamruddhi (spicy prawns marinated in green herbs and pan fried), luqmi (square pastry shells stuffed with spicy potato fillings), and mushrooms grilled and stuffed with cottage cheese and green herbs. I mention these in order to show the range of the menu. I shall now concentrate on what are to me prize items.
Mirchi ka salan (Rs. 75), the mirchis are fat and long, green ones, and they are cooked in a peanut and tamarind gravy, with til and mustard, the condiments ground together but not the chillis. People who have not experienced this dish think that the chillis would burn their mouths. They won't, actually it is quite a mild dish, the pungency of the chillis tempered with the sourness of the tamarind. Sop up the gravy with a missi roti, then pick up a chilli by the stem and bite into it. Dalcha gosht (Rs. 90), which is nearer our Mohamedali Road dal gosht, but cooked with lamb, not goat.
All Hyderabadi food comes with lamb. The meat used is the breast of the lamb, with bone, and the dal is tur. It is also different from dal gosht because of the sourness. As in most Hyderabadi dishes, they use tamarind. The sourness of a dish is equated with its royalty. Nafees jhinge (Rs. 140) is the opposite, it is delicately flavoured, there is a touch of saffron on the air and on the tongue. The prawns are small the kind you eat by the mouthful, not the jumbos that you have to harpoon with fork and slice with knife. They are cooked in a gravy of cashewnuts and almonds, but a light gravy, very subtle, finished with cream. The saffron is for flavour, introduced at the end. I did not know the Hyderabadis made this Recommended.
Next, the pathar ka gosht, lamb steaks very thin, grilled on a very hot black unpolished granite stone, not more than two inches thick. These stones, I understand, are family heirlooms, passed on from mother to daughter. Like French frying pans, they are never washed. The one at Nizam's Heritage comes from Hyderabad. It is kept in the display kitchen, over a pit of glowing charcoals. You may watch the process of making pathar ka gosht. The meat, lamb, naturally, is thoroughly marinated, with raw papayas, green peppers and garam masala, and the marination is over a period of eight to ten hours. The papayas have a tenderising effect, loosening up the tissues of the meat. The flattened meat is then placed on the pathar and cooked. and it is served directly from the display kitchen into your plate. A dish costs Rs. 120, a steal. The next time you visit Hyderabad, don't bring back a pathar ka gosht, bring back the pathar, properly seasoned. The one at the restaurant is selected by Mir Hussain Ali Moosavi and his partner, Radha Rao Perdoor. Mir Moosavi is a direct descendant of the great chefs of the Nizam's personal banqueting service and has a big reputation in Hyderabad. Before the Byculla restaurant opened, he spent two months training its khansamas. So that's how authentic Nizam's Heritage is.
The banquet is not yet over. Keep some room for the Hyderabadi kutchi yakni biryani and haleem hussaini. you are supposed to finish with one or the other, but who cares, eat both. The yakni biryani is different from the Lucknowi dum biryani. Here, raw meat, uncooked rice, and the garam masalas are all put together in a tapela and cooked together on dum. Naturally, this is difficult, since rice cooks considerably faster than meat. If less time is given to the meat, it will come out tough and raw, if more time is given to the rice it will become a khichdi. So the meat used has to be kid gosht and it is first marinated and tenderised, and only when this is done sufficiently is it put in with the raw rice. No water is added, the rice cooking in the water generated from the meat. The cooking itself takes only 15 to 20 minutes, on a very slow fire.When the tapela is unsealed, the bouquet spreads through Byculla, across the flyover and into the traffic.
The biryani is Rs. 120.The haleem is Rs. 110, what the local Sunnis call khichda. Meat and wheat are pounded together and cooked on a slow fire for 10 to 12 hours, until the mixture becomes homogenous. You don't need no rotis, no rice to eat it with. On the table they place two little bowls. One has birista, which is crisp fried onions, the other has rogan, which is the cooking fat that forms on the top of a dish. You add the two to your haleem and eat it, occasionally biting into a white raddish.
I should mention some desserts, though I am myself not a dessert man, only chocolate and vanilla ice-creams, one ball each. but the restaurant has khubani ka meetha, which is apricots stewed in a sugar syrup, cooked on a slow fire till it becomes a soft mass. it is served with cream, Rs. 50. And ande ka lauz, which must be the only Indian sweet with an egg in it.
Try out the place today, lunch or dinner. Reservations: 371 4891, 373 4901. Next time we shall meet under the Charminar.