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Great Indian Queens

Just had a wondeful Indian meal in Flushing at Southern Spice. It's a really bare bones place with exceptionally food. I started with a serrving of Kodi Rasam, a southern style chicken soup, which was spectacular. Broth was amazingly flavorful - just the right amount of spice. We also had Pappu Kooraku, a spincah and lentil mash which was not too highly spiced and without excessive ghee. It was delicious as was the Chapa Pulusu a fish curry with a wonderfully rich, citrisy tamarind sauce. The Nilgiri Kurmam, a goat dish with coconut and mint curry was a good contrast with the fish. This is a neighborhood joint. There is nothing hip or happening here but the food. No wine or beer but the waiter pointed out to the deli across the street where I found KIngfisher. The address is 143-06 45th Ave.

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  1. This sounds exciting. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Ah! I thought we'd be first to review this little gem. We've eaten at this austere restaurant five times. The staff is very friendly and proud of their wonderful dishes. I recommend the Milagai Bajji, batter fried peppers, as an appetizer. Hot peppers stuffed with potatoes and deep fried. The Chapa Pulusu is marvelous, kingfish in a tamarind sauce. We truly love the Chicken 65, Mutton Chettinadu Curry, and the house specialty Hyderbadi Style Dhum Biriyani. The chef surprised us this evening with a dessert made with carrots and coconut. My children love the Hot Gulab Jamoon ala Mode, sort of like donut holes in syrup topped with ice cream. Wonderful! We'll be back again and again.

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      Southern Spice
      1635 Hillside Ave, New Hyde Park, NY 11040

       
      1. Had lunch there today. Had the Kodi Rasam which, as you noted, was outstanding. (I wanted the tamarind-lentil soup but it wasn't available.) Big portions of chicken biryani were well seasoned and very good. I found the veg biryani a bit bland but it had a complex spice flavor. Chicken vindaloo, billed as extremely hot, was tepidly spiced, probably because I was in the company of "mild only" types and I was tarred by association. Still, the vindaloo was tasty. Really good mango lassi as well. I'll be going again.

        34 Replies
        1. re: oldfresser

          is there a website or online menu for this place? Thanks

          1. re: janie

            I'm afraid they do not have an online menu. They only opened recently and are catering to the local Indian crowd leaving a nearby temple. Well worth the trip.

          2. re: oldfresser

            We had the lamb vindaloo and requested spicy. The chef recognizes our faces and always makes our dishes VERY spicy. They are very accomodating. My kids love the mango lassi but weren't wild about the strawberry lassi.

            1. re: mushimushi427

              fresh made, eh? very nice.

              hardly get indian food in flushing but makes so much sense. any other interesting places nearby?

              1. re: bigjeff

                "Fresh made" is probably not an accurate description. It does taste "fresh" but the food is prepared in advance to a moderately spicy taste. The chef will add spice. He told us that he adds three peppers to our dishes when he sees us walk in.

                Southern Spice is located a block away from the Ganesh temple, near the Dosa Hut. I'm afraid the area immediately surrounding the restaurant does not provide much inspiration to walk around. Not too far away (7 blocks) on Main Street between Cherry and Franklin, you will find an assortment of grocery stores, spice stores and sari shops.

                1. re: mushimushi427

                  sounds great regardless. at most indian places, I just ask for some raw chilis on the side anyway to munch on accordingly.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    Here's a little update: We tried this restaurant yesterday and I'm willing to go out on a limb and call it the best Indian restaurant in the U.S. In fact, I can hardly think of any better Indian restaurants I've tried during two 7 week trips to India. It's that good. We had Chicken 65 as an appetizer. The waiter couldn't tell us why they call it Chicken 65, but it seemed ironic that the 65 bus stops right in front of the restaurant (I know that it's not called Chicken 65 because of the bus, since I've had this dish in India). Anyways, the C65 was very tasty. We moved on to the outstanding Kodi Rasam; I had no better soup than this one on my recent 7 week trip to S India (and I'm a soup lover). We moved onto a veg dish, the dahll Makhani (I'm using spelling from the restaurant menu, btw), a wonderful Punjabi dish of "slow cooked buttery kidney beans". Then it was my favorite of the evening, the Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma (goat in mint coconut gravy). At first bite, the mint seemed a bit overpowering, but as I ate the dish, the coconut came into play and by the time I was finishing, I was ready to lick the plate. Highly recommended. Alas, at dessert, they only had enough gulab jamoon for one serving. My wife and I did a dueling spoons thing and probably inhaled the dessert in about 10 seconds (OK, I exaggerate, but just a bit). I told the chef/owner that he had the best Indian in NY; must have been the right thing to say as they comped us on the gulab jamoon. I also found out that the chef/owner is from Chennai and that he owns another restaurant in Manhattan, an all-veg called Madras Cafe (79 Second Ave); Manhattan Chowhounders seem to enjoy the place. To get to S Spice, take the #7 all the way to the end of the line; you can then walk the .85 miles to the restaurant or take the #65 bus from Main and Roosevelt (for some reason, the MTA trip planner doesn't offer this option). Since they don't have an online menu and people are sometimes concerned with prices, most dishes run between $8-$12 and two can eat well for $30, inc tax and tip (but not beer, which you buy across the street).

                    1. re: bruce3404

                      I read bruce3404's post and said 'yeah right'. Then I read the other posts and said 'well maybe'. Hey, I love to be negative. I also love south Indian food, and do not know of anything great in Brooklyn or Queens. So I tried it.

                      Good god, this place is amazing. I had a simple chana masala, chicken 65, an onion kulcha, and a vindaloo. Where do I begin. Overall the spices were fine tuned, delicate, and powerful at the same time. The bread was, well, sublime. In fact, it might have been the best chana masala I have ever had in NYC. The other contenders for 'best' are all out of the area.

                      In short, just go.

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        Best Indian in NYC area? Sounds like its worth checking out.

                        1. re: deam

                          I went again today and their biryani is the best I have ever had bar none. They are also selling whole tandoori chickens for $9.

                          1. re: irishboy

                            Spouse and I went for our 2nd visit last night - even took 2 guests - and I had the Most Amazing Butter Chicken ever! Subtle spices that aroused my taste buds - with just enough pleasurable heat - this dish was richly satisfying. Owner, chef and wait staff are very friendly. I will frequent this restaurant on a regular basis. Better Butter Chicken than any I ate whilst in India. Definitely worth the trip to Flushing/Queens. Bravo!

                            1. re: NYJewboy

                              Hey Jewboy...were you in there last night (Sat 5/2) around 7:30? If so, we were sitting opposite you. Had my second meal there last night and I will continue to travel from Staten to eat at this wonderful place. At least three tables of Chowhounders in there plus an Indian family (though the father sighed and admitted his daughters' first choice was Burger King; guess that teens are the same everywhere!).

                              1. re: bruce3404

                                No bruce3404, I always get take out. Glad you liked it. I will be back (and back).

                                1. re: NYJewboy

                                  Oh lord. After reading these reviews, and taking a look at the photos, you are going to make us take the trip to Flushing. In the next few days. Or sooner. Thanks. Will report back.

                                  1. re: comiendosiempre

                                    Another thumbs up on the chicken dhum biryani - sounds dhum sure but it's great. Also be sure to order the fish curry and the chennai shrimp, both of which are fabulous. Spinach/lentil combination is appealing as a milder foil. (By the way, the Sri Lankan-style fish curry directly across the street at Bownie Restaurant is also very good and worth trying.)

                                    1. re: burton

                                      Off topic here, but another strong second for Bownie. I'm chomping at the bit to hit up Southern Spice - will do so asap.
                                      P.

                                      1. re: burton

                                        Yes burton, this sunday I decided to eat in the restaurant and I had the chicken biryani . The guy told me that they made it that morning and it was sitting for a few hours (which is perfect). It was sublime.

                                        Their breads are similarly amazing. That day I had the chana masala and something interesting came of it. It was maybe the best I have ever had, but it was a totally different style than the last one I got there. The first had a greenish lighter sauce with strong ginger taste, milder. The one on sunday had a dark almost brown sauce with much more pungent spices, lots of ginger still, but heavier and richer. I like the second style best. Maybe the best version of the dish I have ever had, and I get that dish all the time at every Indian place I go to. It blew away Chola, which was formerly my favorite, and at less than HALF the price it was a real bargin.

                                        Just go.

                                        1. re: NYJewboy

                                          One thing to consider for those coming from outside the area is that they close between 3:00 and 5:00 for the Tamil equivalent of a siesta. Not strictly enforced and they're sort of around but not really open for new customers. Of course you can always walk a few blocks south to the Hindu temple to kill some time. (Food canteen at the temple is pretty good too. Nothing like Southern Spice though!)

                                          1. re: burton

                                            That may explain it. I went there today (tues) at 6:00 and they were closed. Either they are closed on tuesday or it was siesta time.

                                            I did not know they were Tamils. Do you know if any of their dishes reflect this ethnicity?

                                            1. re: NYJewboy

                                              The sign in the window says "closed tuesday".

                                              1. re: NYJewboy

                                                judging by the names of the dishes and the ingredients, the dishes listed on the posts above seem to be mainly from Andhra (including Hyderabad) - not a common cuisine at all in NY (tho Saravanaas Bhavan offers some) - Tamil Nadu food is mostly vegetarian, except for the Chettinad community.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  Apologies for any confusion arising from the earlier 'Tamil' reference. I may have read too much into the use of 'chennai' in certain menu item descriptions. Note to self: Confirm which South Indian state the chef hails from...

                                                  1. re: burton

                                                    Whatever ethnic sub-group they belong to, the food speaks for itself. I can think of no rival in the area (especially queens/brooklyn).

                                                    1. re: burton

                                                      As I mentioned above, the head chef/owner is from Chennai, but since he also owns Madras in Manhattan, he may not be in the kitchen every day in Queens.

                                                    2. re: jen kalb

                                                      I think outside of Hyderabadi, Andhra cuisine is generally veg., no? Hyderabad is a Muslim enclave within a pretty traditional Hindu state, I think. I've been to Hyderabad, but not elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh (end of a Mysore-Hyderabad road trip). There's an Andhra veg restaurant in the Bay Area (in Milpitas), but it wasn't great.

                                  2. re: NYJewboy

                                    Ate there for the first time last week. Best Indian food I've ever had. The Chicken 65 was utterly incredible. I had to get a second order to bring to people who couldn't make it out that night. One dish I haven't seen mentioned on this board that was also top of the line was the Kerala crabcakes with green coconut curry.

                                    -----
                                    Southern Spice
                                    1635 Hillside Ave, New Hyde Park, NY 11040

                                    1. re: davidjpearlman

                                      it's interesting, lots of positive reviews on chowhound for southern spice and the voice and times and elsewhere, but they are severely trashed on several indian site, nyindia and others--and their inspection is troubling--wonder about this conflict.

                                      1. re: janie

                                        Southern Spice was highly recommended to me from some Indian friends, so I don't think they are serving food that only appeals to the non-Indian population. I went myself with some Chinese friends and we all enjoyed our meal. My suggestion is to go and taste it for yourself.

                                        1. re: janie

                                          Janie, I can't explain the discrepancies, but I can say this, I tried it last night for the first time and I was blown away. I'm not Indian, nor do I have a lot of experience with Indian food, and I generally shy away from spicy food b/c it makes me sweat a lot, but I really enjoyed my meal. I went there with a friend for dinner. The restaurant was empty when we walked in at about 9ish, which threw me, but we were determined to try it. I was really excited by all the excellent reviews and talked my friend into trying it too. She is not Indian either, but enjoys Indian food, and was more than happy to try a new place. We ordered the fried and battered vegetables and the Chicken 65 as appetizers. I thought the veggies were just okay. I ate them with the 2 dipping sauces that were brought to us, but I wouldn't say they were spectacular. But the Chicken 65 was pretty spectacular. Now, I'm no spice expert, but the spices were both tasty and strong. Even the little spices and herbs that was left on the dish after the chicken was gone I picked up and ate. For entrees, we had the chicken tandoori and the curried goat (or was it mutton?). There were 2 curried goat dishes listed on the menu. I chose the one that was not made with coconut. The curry/gravy was just mind-blowing. I couldn't get enough of it. I thought the tandoori chicken was just better than average. Normally, I wouldn't have chosen that. But there's always next time! Service, by the lone waiter that was there, was excellent. (Okay, so we were the only customers, but still, it was excellent.) He kept bringing on the water, until I asked him to leave a pitcher at my table :) I ordered the ginger lemonade which was very well-made. The ginger definitely gave it an additional kick. But, you could taste that the lemonade itself was good. Now, maybe it's that I'm a novice and am still blown away by the sauces and spices that Indian food uses, but I truly enjoyed my meal, and hope to return soon.

                                        2. re: davidjpearlman

                                          OK. A few good old Indian friends came visiting some six weeks ago: 1 from Mumbai, 1 from Pune, a Gujarati born in Tanzania, and a guy from New Delhi who grew up in a Southern village. I know it sounds strange, but we felt like going to an Indian restaurant for food and have some King Fischer to wash it down, and Southern Spice was it. I do not usually recommend an Indian restaurant to my Indian friends: the guys work their cell phones to find a better advice from the local community. This time I did, and they all praised the food and I am pretty sure it was not out of mere politeness. So, chef Manny's food is now Indian-approved. :)

                                          1. re: davidjpearlman

                                            The Kerala crabcakes are a relatively new addition to the menu. This fusion dish is quite delightful, I have been meaning to post a picture but never got around to it. You should try to get to the lunch buffet and sample more dishes. Chef Manny always has a dish not included on the regular menu. My favorite is the okra.

                                        3. re: bruce3404

                                          It seems we'll never know why they call it Chicken 65. According to the Wikipedia entry on Chicken 65 (yes, there is one):

                                          "The number 65 is variously said to be the number of days taken to prepare the marinade or the year of the dish's creation. One account claims that the dish emerged as a simple meal solution for Indian soldiers in 1965. Others accounts claim that an enterprising hotelier targeted macho diners with a 65-chilli recipe and named the dish accordingly. It is generally acknowledged that no one knows which (if any) of these anecdotal theories are true.

                                          However, according to the Vah Chef on Youtube, Sanjay Thumma, the true story behind the name Chicken 65 is that the recipe originated in an army mess hall where the number 65 referred to the recipe number on the cook's menu list.

                                          It is also told that the name Chicken 65 is evolved from the age of the chicken used to prepare this dish. The original recipe called for Chicken 65 was prepared using chickens which were 65 days or roughly over 2 months old. Since this is a bar-snack, young and tender fried chicken goes as a good starter with wine."

                                          http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                              2. I'll join in with the accolades here. Hit this place up for a late lunch today. I had the Kodi Rasam and the Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma, sided with naan, then took home orders of the Butter Chicken, Chicken 65 and Vegetable Biryani. Some very strong and deep flavors here. In some cases, as with the Mutton coconut curry dish, the spice sneaks up on you. Not so with the chicken soup or the chicken 65, where it's pretty much front and center. The biryani is the best I've tasted in NYC - delicious. The butter chicken was oily in the best possible way. Again, pure flavor. For me, the weak link was their naan, which is of a thin variety. Not bad, but not of the fluffy and chewy variety that I prefer. I'll try the garlic next time. The proprietor was very nice, told me that the Kodi Rasam is for what ails people during monsoon season, ie a cure-all for the common cold.
                                P.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Polecat

                                  WOW

                                  A great find! The owner Manny is very friendly and helpful. Had the Milagai Bajji (fried peppers), chicken 65, Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma (goat in mint coconut gravy) and garlic naan kulcha. Everything was GREAT! Not like your average Indian restaurant. They try to set themselves apart and they certainly do!

                                  1. re: Polecat

                                    I'm so glad you love this place. You MUST try the Chapa Pulusu, curry fish. Each time I've had this dish (at least 5 times) it's better than the last. Chef Manny has really improved the rich complexity of the curry sauce. The Lamb Vindaloo will knock your socks off.

                                    It's a good idea to ask Lovey, the waiter, for a recommendation on the naan. We have had the pleasure of sampling a few varieties of breads. Actually, we've also walked in and asked him to order the whole meal for us. Always with outstanding results.

                                    1. re: mushimushi427

                                      any good shrimp dishes you've tried? Are there any chicken dishes with just breast white meat? Thanks.

                                      1. re: janie

                                        We brought 17 members of our congregation to Southern Spice recently. Some people ordered the shrimp and chicken tandoori. They said it was quite good, must have been. The food was gone before the dish got around to me. The chicken appeared to be white meat from the other side of the table.

                                        The waiter is very helpful and friendly. If you ask him for a recommendation or have dietary restrictions they will gladly accomodate you. We've also been there with someone who is vegan and my mother who doesn't like spicy food (my birthday, my choice of restaurant). We're there often and apologetically asked in advance so they made a special accomodation for mother. We've begged them not to "dumb down" the dishes.

                                        Stop in and pick up a menu. Marvelously spiced food!

                                  2. I am not finding a menu online. I assume that's bc there is not one -- but pls advise if I'm mistaken...

                                    11 Replies
                                      1. re: grindy1

                                        did you mean to link or attach something?

                                        1. re: Jack Barber

                                          Jack, was grindy1 flipping you off or is he/she teasing you by withholding the menu for some reason ?

                                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                                            Sorry, I scanned the menu and tried to post it but it didn't post.

                                            1. re: grindy1

                                              No worries. Just went, and now I have a menu of my very own.

                                              It's all true. It's that good.

                                              Favorite dish = the fried peppers. Not that everything else wasn't great. Never had biryani that was anything but forgettable, but theirs is tremendo. Minty goat, butter chk, chk 65, chana masala, etc.

                                              Palak Paneer was the only kind of average item. Not to stir up a Mina's debate but her version blows this one out of the water.

                                              Everything else amazing though. Well worth the trip.

                                              1. re: Jack Barber

                                                I havent been yet - am excited by this place serving rarer in NY south indian dishes - I hope that that doesnt get washed away by a demand for more generic north indian stuff like butter chicken and palak paneer.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  Your purism is super admirable.

                                                  The butter chicken however was a pretty fantastic rendition. I don't think you need to worry yourself too much about them taking their eye off the ball.

                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                    I agree jen. I think the answer is to keep telling them not to dilute with expectations of appealing to non-Indians. The owner mentioned something about it to me. At the risk of being repetitious, it is well worth it to let them know how much we appreciate the authenticity and intensity of the food.

                                                    1. re: NYJewboy

                                                      On the flip side I asked for my order to be prepared without spice -- I can't handle spice or really flavor of any kind -- and they were totally cool about it!

                                                2. re: grindy1

                                                  grindy - I've had this happen too, and it turned out the file was too big (2 MB+). If you have time, please rescan at fewer dpi and try again.