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Nov 12, 2007 04:43 PM

Hyderabad House, Palo Alto

Michael "mdg" has recommended this spot on University Ave. a few times. Since he steered me to Southern Spice Bistro that I liked so much (and sadly, has gone downhill), I've been wanting to try Hyderabad House. On a Thursday evening in August, my brother and I checked it out for dinner. It has counter service. All the seats were taken when it was our turn to order, but the cashier told us not to worry. And a table did miraculously appear just before our food was ready.

We started with Chicken 65, $7.95, from the appetizer menu.
This is the fourth version I've had of this dish. They've all been quite different so I'm not sure I really know what this dish is supposed to be. That said, this is the first one that was day-glow red in color. It does harken back to hyphenated "Chinese" food in this presentation. Color aside, we did like this dish quite a bit. The white meat chicken was tender and jazzed up with a bunch of exotic spices and bits of fresh chili. Hot!

Then a vegetarian dish, Mirchi ka Salan, $8.95, that comes with rice and naan.
I ordered this because I like it as an accompaniment to biryani. Made with yellow wax peppers, the chilis were moderately spicy. The gravy was not as thick as some and had a stronger tamarind taste to it. The naan was good too.

Finally, Mutton Dum Biryani accompanied by cooling raita, $8.95.
This had quite a heady aroma when brought to the table. William thought the rice was a little too hard, whereas I liked the dry roasted character of this biryani. The pieces of mutton were too dry and sort of stringy. But the overall dish was a success with so much flavor going on.

Too full for dessert this time, but I'll want to go back to try the Hyderabadi dessert, Qubani ka Meetha, and more from the menu. Another good rec from "mdg", and an especially welcome one for the chow-challenged Stanford area.

Hyderabad House
448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

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  1. My friend from the southern part of India said Hyderabad House serves the most authentic homestyle food he's found in the US. I'm a huge mutton biryani fan, but never seem to hit the nights when it's available, so thanks for the report.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Claudette

      Actually, I wanted to try the achari gosht that Michael had recommended, but it wasn't available this night. It's one of the dishes on a list of rotating specials.

      HH has a wine and beer license. You can get Taj Mahal, Flying Horse, or Kingfisher and other beers, as well as Sula Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc, and a few other wines.

    2. OK Now I want to try this place again. I love Indian food, and when I lived in Fremont it was easy to at least find a decent meal, but Palo Alto has Indian food problems...

      Anyway, last time I was there we asked for the best vegetarian thing on the menu that didn't have wheat in it, and our dish - a kidney bean dish was bland, unidimensional and not at all spicey. My husband;s lentil soup - same. I keep passing it, thinking that all these Chowhounds can't be hallucinating, so maybe I'll have to try it again. I would love to hear from folks what the best dishes are. I like spicey, complex flavors. I am not vegetarian (just didn't feel like meat that day) will eat anything, but can't have wheat.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jsaimd

        You used to live in Fremont? Then I feel for you even more regarding Indian food on the other side of the Bay. I had a project in Fremont a couple years ago and loved all the variety and quality of Indian food available there. Palo Alto has food problems in general, not the least of which is in the Indian department.

        Anyway, my brother had been to HH before and wasn't keen to go there with me. I think he said he had eggplant bartha, iirc. This time though he really liked the dishes we tried, so that's a start.

        I put the website link in the Places entry, but here it is again,

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Hi Melanie,

          Glad that you tried and liked it! The mutton biryani is my second favorite dish next to the achari. Note that they now have achari chicken as well as achari ghost, and it is similarly outstanding. Personally I would think the best vegetarian dish without wheat would be the biryani or the eggplant dishes.

          The owner Satish is very helpful and he is often there. He steered me to Bombay Brasserie before my recent visit to London, saying that I had to have their fried okra dish. He sure was right! Bombay Brasserie can be $100/person for dinner at current exchange rates, and the food and setting are magnificent. But they won't serve you a wine by the glass anywhere near as good as the Sula Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz you can get at Hyderabad House for a meal that costs 1/4 of that.


      2. I recently ate at Hydrabad House and found it unremarkable. All the food lacked a certain punch or clarity. I remember most clearly the chicken 65 which had none of the dazzle of Mayuri's version. The other two dishes, frankly, were unmemorable. This is not destination Indian in any sense. Hearing from friends, it seems that the owner realized they could take the quality of ingredients and cooking down a notch and no one would notice - this is PA, after all.

        I don't see Hydrabad House as an answer to PA's "indian food problems".

        HH does seem to be a decent little place, and more Chicken 65 in the world is always a good thing.

        I still patronize Darbar when in downtown PA and feeling in an Indian mood - went there just last week, even. Darbar pretends to be no more than a good neighborhood indian joint, and for that, among the glitzy rooms of PA, I respect and patronize it.

        Passage to India has been on the upswing recently, and a recent trip to Amber had me thinking more kindly of it, even with a half-hour wait for a table.

        My first visit to Southern Spice was memorable for the bizzare atmosphere, and peculiarly bony and unappetizing forms of chicken. I suspect it's a vegitarian's paradise, as I loved the spice, but as a meat-ivore, I have to gather my courage for another visit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bbulkow

          Before we lived in Fremont, I could do Darbar. But now - I really don't like it.

          Passage is an interesting place. It is very hit or miss, even for the same dishes. my kids love their buffet, because it is not has spicey as some of the East Bay restaurants. We have been and it has been very good, and this last Friday when we were there, it wasn't good at all.

          Amber is generally consistently good, but some dishes are very rich.

        2. Ate here for the first time last night and really liked it. My favorite dish of the night was the Achari Ghost - tender but well-browned lamb (enough that most cubes had a satisfying crust), in a really delicious, complex sauce. Lots of caramelized onions and whole spices (I was only able to identify fennel, mustard seed, and cumin).

          I also really liked the chicken biryani - I couldn't figure out the dominant spice on the chicken, but it was delicious (and not overcooked). Rice was, as Melanie described, dry and fluffy (but not hard).

          Actually, I liked it all - we also had the Mirchi ka Salan - I wonder if the preparation has changed since Melanie's visit, as it had a very thick sauce (lots of body from ground sesame and peanuts), the goat curry (well-executed, if less exciting than the other dishes), and the bhindi masala (simple and delicious, mildly spiced okra).

          Dishes are very rich - I was surprised when the four of us threw in the towel with almost half of the food uneaten - but after we packed up leftovers, we found ourselves dealing with what seemed like an endless ooze of red grease leaking out of the takeout containers (I think the Mirchi ka Salan was the prime culprit, but all of the dishes are pretty oily). This, of course, is not a deterrent in terms of me finishing off leftovers... I'm just going to eat them with brown rice.

          1. Just heard from a friend in the area that Hyderabad House is posted for a transfer of ABC license to a new owner and business name, Thyme to Eat.

            Edited to add: HH is still operating as is, for now.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks for the update. It's not a surprise as the food tasted much different on my last visit a few weeks ago. It was still good, but the achari chicken tasted much more like Shah's version than the remarkable version they cooked at Hyderabad House and Marigold.

              I had to wait years before other places cooked Apollo Fish as good as what Marigold did when Hyderabad House dropped it from the menu, but now places like Peacock and The Menu do a great job with it. So hopefully the same will happen with their version of achari, but hopefully not take several years to reappear on someone else's menu!

              Thanks, Satish, for all the great food over the years!