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Southern Spice: seems to be getting better and better

When I first began going it was fantastic. It might be my imagination, but it seems to be getting even better. Dishes have been added (see other posts) and old ones refined. I think the breads, in particular the onion kulcha, are the best I have ever had. The onions inside are voluminous and fresh, with tons of seeds and spices. The dum biryani seems to be tastier than ever, with exceptionally tender flavor saturated meat. Does anyone else notice this place just getting better all the time? Could it be an added concentration of attention now that Manny is closing the 2d ave spot? I think it is in prime form, and chowhounds are OBLIGED to go!

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

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  1. I think that Chef is always looking to add new items and it gets better and better. The lunch buffet offers items not included on the menu. This past weekend we had an incredible dish of cabbage flavored with onions, mustard seeds, spices and coconut which added a surprisingly complimentary mellow accent. Of course I was happy to find bindi (okra) on the buffet table. Yummy! We also had a new chili naan (I'm not sure if it's on the menu) offered up by Lovie.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mushimushi427

      Chili naan! I have to ask him about that...

    2. Does anyone know where I can view a menu?

      I have heard good things recently and would like to check it out.
      Ive read about the following, any more suggestions and ideas

      An appetizer of milagai bajji ($3), green hot pepper stuffed with potatoes and coated with chickpea and rice flours.
      Chicken 65 ($6) 65 ingredients?!?!?!?!?
      Sura puttu ($9), "scrambled shark," shredded shark meat with mustard and fennel seeds, cilantro, curry leaves, dried chilies and the occasional cardamom pod.
      karaikudi nandu varuval ($15), a slow-cooked crab made Chettinad style, which has to be ordered in advance.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Asumnuthin

        My daughter LOVES the mint goat curry and I love the lamb sukka. Chicken 65 is always super and the Biryani is Southern Spice's specialty. I recommend the buffet lunch, you can try a small sample of several dishes and everything tastes fresh.

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

        1. re: Asumnuthin

          I ordered takeout 2-3 weeks ago. The stuffed peppers were good, but the Chicken 65 and the Lamb Varuval were absolutely fantastic, flavorful, spicy. Plan on trying other things on the menu as well.

          Some photos of the menu courtesy of Eating in Translation's Dave Cook:


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

          1. re: csabi26

            I tried the Lamb Varuval for the first time today. It was one of the best dishes I have had there. I love the dry spice coated style. Right up with chicken 65 and their excellent chana masala.

            1. re: NYJewboy

              Omigosh! I thought Manny put out a new dish. I didn't realize that there was another word after Lamb Sukka. This was one of the two first dishes we were served at Southern Spice. We walked in and asked Lovey and Chef Manny to select our meal for the evening.

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

              1. re: mushimushi427

                I spoke to him this evening and he was telling me about a goat brain dish he makes. I think it won't make it to the menu, but it sounds interesting. Brain is really pushing it for me, but if there is anywhere I would eat brain it would be here. I had the shark this evening and it was sublime. We have to be thankful for this place. Rare indeed!

                1. re: NYJewboy

                  Off subject but we had a fab brain dish at Ali's Kabab Café. It was served hot and then scrambled table side with egg. We had to eat it quickly with pita, because after a while it began to congeal. It was a very tasty savory dish though.

                  Kabab Cafe
                  25-12 Steinway St, Queens, NY 11103

                  1. re: NYJewboy

                    The Gastronauts food club is going to Southern Spice and having the brain dish among others. It sold out in minutes (I missed it) but here is the menu for those who are interested. Watch the gastronauts.net web site for updates from the event.

                    SOUTHERN SPICE
                    Rabbit Masala
                    Varutha Moolai (Goat Brain )
                    Crab masala Uthappam
                    Sura Puttu (Shark Scrambled)
                    Vowvaal Mean (pomfreet steamed in banana leaf)
                    Tandoori spicy duck breast

                    1. re: dhs

                      Manny told me about this yesterday. It is tonight, isn't it?

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        Yes I believe so. As mentioned, it is sold out and most likely a long waiting list for any openings from cancellations

                    2. re: NYJewboy

                      Brain is pushing it for me too. Reminds me of my grandmother trying to push me to eat that stuff.

                      I think we have to open a facebook group for Southern Spice. Tortilleria Nixtamal in Corona has one...it's rather amazing and useful.

                      Tortilleria Nixtamal
                      104-05 47th Ave, Queens, NY 11368

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

                      1. re: mushimushi427

                        We just had our first taste of southern spice this week. I thought the goat biryani was the best of many years of Indian eating in NY. the scrambled shark dish was also delicious. The two vegetables we had were less outstanding - maybe I should have gone with an eggplant. Im eager to find an opportunity to eat there with a group of meateaters since the meat and fish dishes appear to shine.

              2. re: Asumnuthin

                God, I can't wait to eat here. Chicken 65 is a common dish in India, esp. in more rough-and-tumble restaurants. It doesn't have 65 ingredients, but I don't think anyone really knows why it's called that. Wikipedia has some fun theories -- I myself believe that is was once #65 on some menu somewhere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_65

              3. After discovering all the glowing reports on CH, we made the trek last night! Woo-hoo it was awesome. Had chicken 65, fried pepper fritters, goat, crab cakes kerala style, and a special of tandoori duck, with garlic naan. My favorite was the goat and the pepper fritters. I think that garlic naan is a mistake with food so flavorful, the strong garlic flavor distracts from all the intense interplay of the spices (and I love garlic!). The entrees offered a wonderful array of different sauces: the goat was a dark, wonderful sauce, the crab had a bight, creamy, cilantro-laden sauce, and the duck had a nice tangy orange sauce (tamarind?).

                A side note, there's a big sign on the front saying no BYOB, but not knowing the policy, we had brought along a bottle of Deus beer. They let us drink it out of paper cups (maybe because we were the only customers?). Anyway, it was a nice pairing.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Mandymac

                  When did the BYOB policy change? Are they serving beer now? Part of the ritual used to be buying a couple big Kingfishers across the street and lugging them over. Glad to hear about all the menu changes. Haven't been in the city for several months, but look forward to returning in January and eating at Southern Spice at least twice a week. The only other go-to restaurants we have picked are Le Cirque, Jean-Georges and Blue Hill. I'm just as excited about eating at Southern Spice as I am about the others.

                  1. re: bruce3404

                    So happy they are in such good company!

                    No Sripraphai?

                    1. re: NYJewboy

                      Oh, they're on the list, too. So many places, so little time.

                2. I tried Southern Spice the last time I was in Flushing recently. I ordered a chicken dish in a mint gravy, eggplant in a tamarind gravy and the onion kulcha.

                  I don't see the chicken dish listed on the takeout menu in front of me. At first bite I wasn't too impressed, but by the time my chicken and kulcha were gone I was spooning up the last few spoonfuls of the gravy and just eating it like soup.

                  I didn't like the eggplant dish as much and I'm usually a big fan of eggplant. Maybe the tamarind gravy just isn't for me, but I didn't think the eggplant itself was so hot. The spice level was perfect, until I went and bit into the chile pepper that was giving the dish its heat and turned it into a double vindaloo. My own fault, of course.

                  The shark dish sounds interesting. And that cabbage dish that isn't on my takeout menu and don't recall from the restaurant.

                  1. Made it here for the first time tonight, and all i can say is "Wow!"

                    We had:

                    chicken 65
                    nilgiri chicken (mint coconut gravy)
                    lamb sukka (dry sauteed lamb)
                    sura puttu (shark scramble)
                    pappu kooraku (spinach lentil mash)
                    noona vankaya (eggplant in tamarind gravy)
                    veg biriyani
                    garlic nan

                    it was all delicious. It started with the samosas, which were crisp and light, not at all heavy like the ones you get everywhere else. It was the kind of meal where you can't stop eating because you can't decide which flavor you want in your mouth last. You think you want to end with one flavor, but then you realize you want to end with something else. And so on.

                    I don't go out much for indian food, as i tend to think i make better at home. (except for south indian snack things like dosa and iddly as i don't make those at home--tho i did just buy an iddly steamer), but i will definitely return to southern spice and recommend it to all my friends.

                    Thanks chowhounds! I wouldn't know about this place if it wasn't for you guys. That's why i love this board.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Let me tell all of you, and I don't say this lightly, this place made me the best chicken vindaloo I have ever had this evening. It had the perfect balance between vinegary and hot, pungent yet DEEP rich flavor. The dish is often far less than subtle, and often suffers from being heavy handed. But these guys understand vindaloo on a whole other level. They convinced me that this is indeed a noble and sophisticated dish.
                      And the onion kulcha that went with it was so full of spices that it could have been a meal in itself.
                      Damn these guys are good!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        Good to know. I was eyeing the vindaloo when I was there. Don't usually order it because it's not v good in most restaurants, but i'll order it there next time i go.

                        1. re: NYJewboy

                          FINALLY tried this place this past weekend! On Saturday, we ordered several of the items mentioned on this board and were not disappointed. While we were there, my husband asked if they had duck vindaloo. They didn't, but said they would make it for us the next day if we wanted. Came back Sunday for the duck, as promised. I liked it even more than the lamb vindaloo (and I really love lamb). The meat was very tender and even though the sauce is spicy, somehow it didn't overwhelm the taste of the duck.

                          Has anyone tried the kozhi vellai kuruma (boneless chicken in nut sauce)? It's on my list for the next visit.

                          1. re: Jaleamia

                            I tried the kozhi vellai kuruma during a visit there about 6 months ago. It was good enough, not outstanding. I remember it having a pleasant sweet flavor but that's about all.

                        2. I am totally the voice of dissent on Southern Spice. We went a few weeks ago with a few friends inspired by these ecstatic reviews. We got a whole table of food -- Chicken 65, kodi rasam soup, nilgiri mutton korma, chana masala, chennai shrimp, vegetable biryani and garlic naan. Everything we had was fine, but we found nothing worth making that trek for. The soup was spicy, but just in a way where it seemed overwhelmed by black pepper. The chicken 65 was nice, not outstanding. The shrimp dish I would actually categorize as the dreaded "gloopy." For reasons not worth getting into, I wasn't eating grains at the moment, so couldn't try the biryani and naan, but my companions found them OK and left them unfinished.

                          We were really hoping to love SS, but don't think we'll be returning anytime soon.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: chompchomp

                            So sorry you weren't wowed. We loved the place. My son has been asking every day for the past week to go back. He's already chosen it as his b-day spot, supplanting Sripraphai. He loved the chicken 65. I have to say, I liked the chicken 65 a lot at the restaurant, but the leftovers were even better a couple of days later--i think the flavors had had more of a chance to meld.

                            Just for comparison's sake--what is an Indian restaurant in NYC you like?

                            1. re: missmasala

                              MM: I found the same thing. After food sat for a day in my fridge the flavors integrated beautifully. Especially so with the vindaloo as the potato really absorbs the flavors.

                              1. re: missmasala

                                We really love Tiffin Wallah and Saravanaas in Murray Hill. My husband is fortunate enough to work over there and gets lunch at least once a week at Kalustyan's.

                                1. re: chompchomp

                                  I've never tried tiffin wallah, but I love Saravanaas too. However, when I'm in the mood for meat and don't want high-style tandoori and don't want to make it myself, southern spice is the best i've found.

                                  Kalustyans groceries are a little overpriced for me, but I love their mujeddera sandwich.

                            2. Christmas dinner at Southern Spice!! Two of us, and we ordered like pigs so we would have plenty of leftovers to take home! The new things we ordered on this trip included Samosa Chaat (best seasoning I've ever had), chicken biryani (which I didn't love, nice presentation, but the chicken tasted slightly off and gamey), the dry-sauteed lamb (heaven, pure heaven), fish curry (the spiciest thing on the table, I think), daal (marvelous but I think that my mouth might have been too on fire on that point to get the subtleties). Another great meal.

                              All the goat and lamb I've ever had here has be mind-blowingly spectacular--is it something to do with how it favors a low and slow cooking? Should I order two lamb dishes next time I go?

                              1. Two items I'd never tried that are worth writing about:
                                - Sura Puttu: As others have documented, this is "scrambled shark." Good, unique stuff. It reminded me of West Indian cook-up and breakfast fish dishes but without the heavy spice. Well worth trying.
                                - Spicy Eggplant dish (don't know the Indian name): We got this off the lunch buffet and were, one and all, blown away by it. The eggplants themselves were fresh, green muthers, halved and immersed in a spicy marinade that had equal parts flavor and kick. We're jumping at the bit to have this again.

                                I also had the fish curry again, only this time off of the buffet. I remember enjoying it more off the menu. The fish this time was okay, but definitely tougher.

                                On the whole, this buffet - which the staff tends to push hard on you - is eons above all others I've tried of this kind. I'd definitely do it again, and look forward to more visits.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Polecat

                                  That suru puttu is good, but funnily enough, I think I would prefer it for breakfast.

                                  And is the eggplant the one off the menu? That was beloved by the eggplant-loathing member of our party and merely liked by the eggplant lovers.

                                  The eggplant that has recently blown me away was the cold one in garlic sauce at spicy and tasty.

                                  1. re: Polecat

                                    Polecat, do you think they use tamarind in their eggplant preparation?
                                    I ask because when that dish is prepared correctly, it can be awesome.

                                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                                      miss m,
                                      I had the suru puttu for breakfast (leftovers) the next day, as it turns out. probably because it reminded me of jamaican and/or trinidadian fish dishes. even though there seems to be some carb element in there already, i could see this dish going down just fine with some nice, soft, hot roti bread, or rolled up in a double.

                                      am not sure whether this is the off-menu eggplant dish or not.

                                      i detected no tamarind, nothing overpowering anyway. this dish was more on the spicy side, not so much tart. if you find yourself at Southern Spice, i highly recommend going for it, though, if it's included in the buffet.


                                  2. does anyone know if they are still closed on Tuesdays?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: taboulitoo

                                      Yes, they are. And there is no more lunch buffet during the weekdays. They have an a la carte lunch menu during the week and buffet on weekends.

                                    2. Really nice food. Went out there tonight for the first time, and I'm sure I will return.

                                      We wound up with an appetizer portion of Chicken 65 and an order of rasam, a peppercorn soup to start, followed by a Hyderabadi vegetable biryani and Pappu Kooraku (?), an unassuming little spinach and lentil mash that kept getting better the more I thought about it. We washed this down with a ginger lemonade and a mango lassi.

                                      Real food, lots of flavor (except for the biryani, which was a little bland), and I can't figure out why more people aren't there. It's a bit of a schlep, but not crazy -- you go to the end of the 7 train, you walk down Main Street, bear left at Kissena Blvd, turn left on 45th Ave, you're there. 10-15 minutes? And I also don't know why people say there's nothing good to see in the neighborhood. I mean, it's Queens. Personally, I LIKE walking down streets written in script that I can't parse.

                                      Anyway, the funny thing is that I kept thinking of food to be made with food. The Chicken 65 is basically boneless chunks of chicken dusted in spices, and I was thinking how good it would taste with some mayo on a baguette. And that ginger lemonade -- put some vodka in there and stick it on ice? $10 in some Manhattan trendy bar, easy. The winners were the rasam (peppercorn and tamarind soup), which did well on a muggy September evening and would be even better on a damp December night, and the spinach lentil deal. I was eating and suddenly found myself paying attention closely to all the subtle flavors going off in my mouth at once.

                                      Thanks, Chowhound community, for introducing me to this!

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

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: TreatyOak


                                        Just providing a link to another thread on Southern Spice

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

                                        1. re: Steve R

                                          Friend of mine went here this past Friday night and had an awful meal..she ordered Malai Koftha and Tandoori Chicken. She said both were prepared poorly, and the chicken was so dried out it was inedible. She also said the place was empty on a Fri night..still haven't had a chance to go, and just started introducing more spice back into my diet...did she just order wrong? I had told her to get chicken 65 and the biryani's, but they informed her that they would be too spicy for her companion who didn't want spicy...

                                          1. re: janie

                                            janie -- Read the thread I linked to above your post. My 1st visit to SS was much the same as your friend's (I talk about the overly dry tandoori, the fact that they warned us away from the C-65 and toned down the spices, etc) & I'm glad I went back and ordered differently. Worth another shot for your friend (& you), although overall I'm happier spending more and going to Dhaba in Manhattan.

                                            1. re: janie

                                              If you don't want spicy, there's no reason to go to southern spice. It's not a north indian restaurant, so northern/punjabi dishes like tandoori chicken and malai kofta are not going to be what they do best, or perhaps even well.

                                              We've been ordering takeout about once a week from southern spice lately, and I have to say, it has been great. But the only north indian dish we order there is the saag paneer (which btw, is delicious--creamy saag and well browned cheese with julienned ginger).
                                              We always order the chicken 65 and the lamb vindaloo, two dishes I think they do very well. I've never seen a chicken 65 like theirs—most other versions I've had have been more liked spiced chicken nuggets--deep fried. Their chicken 65, in contrast, has much more complex and south indian tasting spicing.
                                              If what you want is the richer, not-spicy muglai/punjabi food, then yes, you are probably better off going to a higher-end place like dhaba.

                                              also, if someone didn't want spicy, the waiter did well to warn them off the chicken 65, because it is, indeed, very spciy.

                                        2. I recently went and I had the biriyani and the spinach with dal. While that starter was good and was a solid example of vegetarian cooking (always the best indicator of practically any South Asian restaurant aside from the fish obsessed eateries of Bangladeshis) the biriyani was excellent. On par with better biriyani I would find in London and undoubtedly the best I've had in New York by a long shot. Very nice presentation with the banana leaf as well. My only complaint is the price. It's a bit extortionate for biriyani; the same dish would be 4 pounds in London which would come to about 6 dollars with no obligation to tip.

                                          1. I plan on going soon I just want to check if I did my hw well. I plan on ordering Sura Putta (shark), Chicken 65, Lamb Varuval, Mutton Biryani, and Onion Kulcha. In general I like creamy indian dishes like chicken makhani or sag paneer. Are there any must have recs I'm missing from what I plan on ordering? (your suggestions can be spicy)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: daffyduck

                                              the spinach with dal is good, but if you like creamy, get the saag paneer. I like it there.
                                              And I also rec the lamb vindaloo, tho the varuval is good as well.