NJ Dining: Brick Lane Curry House (UPDATED)

Brick Lane Curry House
540 Valley Road, Upper Montclair NJ 07043
(973) 509-2100

Web Site: http://www.bricklanemontclair.com

It’s a cute little Indian restaurant, with warm and attentive staff. It’s family friendly.

Sounds like a great place to take the kids, right?

Indeed, I’d recommend this place for Indian food in a heartbeat. But at this Upper Montclair charming little British-style curry house lurks an EVIL. One that should not be tampered with. Not even by the most adventurous, veteran foodies such as myself.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Owner Ritesh Patel opened Brick Lane Curry House in the sweltering hot July of 2011. In partnership with the founders of the New York City restaurant of the same name, he opened a genuine Upper Montclair franchise of the Manhattan original, complete with its … diabolical signature dish.

What you’re looking at here are the components of the Phaal Curry. Imagine, if you will, a Vindaloo, which is already considered to be one of the hottest Indian curries in existence.

On top of this basic flavor profile of fresh ginger and tomato paste, onions and vinegar, garam masala and turmeric you add … TEN different types of chiles.

This includes dried whole chiles, chile flakes, chile powders, chile pastes, green chiles, and then the hottest chile pepper on the planet, the “Ghost Chile” or Bhut Jolokia, which has an effective heat rating of about 1 Million Scoville Units. Yes, you heard that straight, one million.

A typical orange habanero or a Jamaican Scotch Bonnet only has about 80,000-100,000 Scoville units, so that should give you a rough idea of just how hot this dish is. Adam Richman on the Travel Channel’s Man Vs. Food did an entire television segment on this insane curry.

Do you notice the gas mask on the far right? That’s because they won’t let the chef cook it without protection from breathing in the fumes or getting it into his eyes. You do know what they make pepper spray out of, right?

Not that the protein matters, since you won’t be able to taste it anyway, but you can order this with chicken, lamb or vegetarian-style.

Melody Kettle of Hot From the Kettle. Melody organized a “Phaal Challenge” and invited me to participate on a calm Sunday afternoon. I told her I would taste the dish, but there was no way in hell I was going to try competing in this.

Melody was a lot braver than I was, but I think once she realized what she got herself into, the enormity of the task sunk in. Check out her blog for a great video of the event!

Ritesh Patel addresses the participants, standing tall, ready to face the challenge himself.

A bowl of Chicken Phaal Curry. The stuff should be banned by the Geneva Convention. I had two bites of this insane thing before I gave up and moved on to more civilized fare. Trust me, I’m no wuss when it comes to spicy food, but I’m not self-destructive! Remember, it’s hot going down and it’s hot… going on the way out.

Mango Lassi. You’d better have one of these handy if you attempt the Phaal.

Sasi Kumar, the South Indian Tiger. This guy is insane — he finished the challenge in less than 10 minutes, first DRINKING the curry slosh out of the bowl, alternating with Mango Lassi sips, and then devouring the meat. To summarize his strategy, it’s “Drink the soup, eat the meat”. I’m in utter awe of this guy.

After the excitement of the Phaal Challenge was over, and my two bites of curry hell were over, I decided to try the restaurant’s more normal dishes.

Crispy Papadums, with Cilantro/Mint/Chile, Tamarind and Onion Chutneys.

Mulligatawny soup, made from pureed yellow lentils.

This Tandoor dish served on a blazing hot skillet is called a “Sizzler”, a type of Indian kebab that was invented in England. It’s roughly analogous to Indian Fajitas.

Heriyali Tikka, a Tandoor chicken dish flavored with Coriander.

Whole Tandoori fish.

Biryani, an Indian rice dish with nuts and raisins, with Chicken Tikka Masala, the classic, in the rear.

Chicken Tikka, a popular Tandoor dish.

Combination Malai, Hariyali and Tikka kebab platter.

Onion Bhajii Appetizer. Think of these as onion fritters made with chickpea flour with a tomato chutney. Fabulous.

You can get a side order of just the Phaal Curry sauce if you want to use it for dipping. Yikes.

Samosa appetizer. I ordered these stuffed with Keema, which is a ground lamb mixture.

Keema Samosa portion

Lassuni Gobi, Cauliflower florets that are battered and deep fried with a tangy sauce. This is similar to an Indo-Chinese dish called Gobi Manchurian. Rachel and I both loved this.

Now this is what I call Indian food.

This is a Goa-style Shrimp Curry with Cononut, flavored with turmeric to give it that bright yellow color. If you’re not so much into super-spicy, this is probably a good dish for you, but I thought it was really mild.

This is a Bhuna Curry with lamb. I know it looks kind of like the Phaal, but it’s nowhere near as hot as that thing. I’d day it was sufficiently spicy and you could still taste the ingredients.

The dish is described elsewhere as “first and foremost a cooking process where spices are gently fried in plenty of oil to bring out their flavour. “

This curry is more tomato-based than a Vindaloo and less emphasis on the vinegar (I don’t think it actually has any vinegar in it at all) and more on the spicing. We really liked this one.

Butter Curry with Lamb. This is the evolutionary predecessor to the Chicken Tikka Masala. Really liked this one as well.

These folks seem to be having a good time.

Imli Ki Champe, tandoor Lamb Chops with a caramelized tamarind, ginger and garlic sticky BBQ sauce on it.

Stuffed Paratha Bread with Chicken Tikka.

Garlic Paratha

Rice Pudding

11 Responses to NJ Dining: Brick Lane Curry House (UPDATED)

  1. MJP says:

    The phaal challenge is not food to be eaten, it’s a hurdle to be mentally prepared for.

    When I did my phaal challenge, I had time to reflect, to gird myself for the ordeal ahead. Indeed, the phall challenge isn’t as bad as other spicy food challenges – you have rice, you have naan, you have raita, you have mango lassi. These are all effective countermeasures against the phaal onslaught. You work with those and you come through.

    But to just go up and be all “oh hey guys I’m gonna eat some phaal, watch this” is going to cause swift and instantaneous defeat at the hands of the curry.

    My Indian friend was cocky. He didn’t last two bites.

    Me, I won a Palm Pre over it.

    Prior Preparation Prevents Powerful Phaal Phear.

  2. LOVE Brick House! Another nice job, Jason!

  3. OOOOOPS — Brick Lane!

  4. rickvanover says:

    This place is the shiz. I’ve been wanting to go for a long time. Its a definite next time I’m in NYC. Great blog and pics, Jason.

  5. tnorth12 says:

    Love that T-Shirt! “Got Hot” – gotta have the hot, unless the flavor isn’t there then it’s just hot for the sake of hot. Nice review!

    Great place for all kinds of chile peppers:

    chile peppers

  6. Those photos are gorgeous. We’ve only gotten take-out, and I went to the Manhattan site only once, soon after it opened. It’s become out go-to once a week order in instead of sushi. Lots of vegetarian options, and a variety of heat to choose from. That “hot going out” warning is enough to keep me in the medium range.

    Wonderful write-up.

  7. MJP says:

    We actually went to Brick Lane last week and the bhuna was AMAZING with lamb. There’s plenty available with goat, too, amongst the curries. I don’t know how super mega authentic Brick Lane is compared with other Montclair Indian staples but it’s definitely a nice traversal.

    A curry each, a paratha, a naan, and an onion bhaji to start had us stuffed with leftovers. It’s cheap as anything, and also, there’s a wonderfully stocked wine shop not too far away in the parking plaza.

  8. Oh no … I was peckish before I read this. Now I am ravenous!!!

  9. pan fried flounder says:

    There is a Brick House Curry opening up in Ridgewood on Franklin Ave (across from Sakura Bana

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