If you were assaulted by my blog posts last year or earlier this year, you would have read Hor Al Anz East in association with pots of Moroccan tagine, folds of cheesy Egyptian feteer, and three-foot long Iranian sangak bread that I shovelled down with juicy logs of kabab koobideh. Hor Al Anz East is a self-contained square of Middle Eastern and North African specialities. So if you’re craving Ethiopian doro watt or Egyptian koshari or Omani sweets, this is where you’d go: right across from the Abu Hail Metro, behind the old Ramada Hotel and in the same block as the Canadian Speciality Hospital.
But if you’re craving biryani or dosas, then you’re in the wrong part of town. You need to trot over to an adjacent neighbourhood, Hor Al Anz. Hor Al Anz should really be termed Hor Al Anz West, but in the grander scheme of keeping this city’s urban planning as counter intuitive as possible, it’s just been called Hor Al Anz. This Indo-Pak pocket of restaurants is tucked away behind the United Hypermarket, on the road heading from the Clock Tower towards the Deira Corniche.
Now that that’s clear, let's talk about a Hyderabadi restaurant that I finally walked out of, feeling like I had come THAT much closer to a biryani resembling the one made by the gifted hands of my very own Hyderabadi mother. While the biryani we had at Anmol was still at Pluto relative to Mom’s version, at least it was still in the same galaxy. That’s really, really rare. Even one of the most acclaimed biryanis I’ve tasted in Hyderabad (Paradise, overrated I tell you.) doesn't orbit half as close to mom’s as the mutton biryani we ate at Anmol.
The key was that the rice grains were fluffy, easily separable, and not greasy. Biryani grains that leave an oily slick down your fingers should be instantly downgraded to an inferior race of biryani, and EJECTED out into the ether…floating like helpless, unwanted, greasy grains of rice amongst lonely particles of astro dust. Harsh? Yes. But do your tastebuds deserve better? A resounding YES that makes a paddy field of basmati rice rumble in agreement.
Then there are biryanis where the mutton is chewy. I don’t know what to tell you about chewy meat in a biryani, other than it should never happen. Never ever. But it does, and you shouldn’t have to suffer your jaws through it. In a city with innumerable biryani options, not just the Hyderabadi kind but those prevalent across other cultures, you don’t need to be a biryani slave. A fellow blogger recently shone the light on the Sindhi biryani at Pak Liyari, so go out there and help yourself with a big fat serving of the right thing.
While Anmol got two of the most fundamental yet flouted principles of biryani right, it lacked the sultry saffron aroma and ghee-kissed soul that a high-quality biryani would seduce its diners with. To be fair, Anmol is a hole-in-the-wall joint, one whose biryani is meant to feed the throngs of bachelors in Hor Al Anz at a jaw-droppingly low price, not be analysed by some snooty biryani critic who patches together a few four syllable words and calls it a review.
But it was a very well-made biryani, made even better with thick dollops of mirchi ka salan. Mirchi ka salan literally translates into gravy of chillies, and while the version mom makes at home will give you your own personal rocket fuel to China and back, this one kept me rooted to the spot, praying that my friends wouldn’t discover the dish before I could stealthily overturn the entire bowl into my own plate. The gravy was a slow-simmered potion of three prominent flavours, coconut, toasted sesame and sour tamarind. And when the flavours had successfully melded into each other, the gravy wandered off the stove-top in search of the perfect biryani grain for its nutty, tangy vows.
Other dishes that hit the spot on this midnight dinner run were a creamy, coconut-coated Chicken Noorani and a Khatti Daal that was soured with tamarind and tempered with peppery mustard seeds. Both were sopped clean off my plate with stretchy coils of South Indian paratha. The dahi wade were less successful. The fried balls of black gram lentil were far denser than the soft, fluffy globes my tastebuds have been trained to hunt out in similar bowls of coriander and chilli-speckled yogurt that mom prepares at home.
Anmol is not the place you visit alone if you’re a lone lady. Make no mistake, this is a raw, testosterone-pumped South Indian bachelor joint. There’s no menu, save the list scrawled on the wall—which is only suggestive of what could be available on any particular day. If you’re really craving some authentic coconut and tamarind spotted curries and a hefty bowl of tender mutton spaded right out of a massive old-school aluminium cauldron of biryani (degda), then call ahead and drive by for a takeout.
Anmol Hyderabadi Restaurant
Phone: +971 (4) 297 6646