The name says it all – ‘Spice wimps, Beware.’ Andhra food can be some of the spiciest fare that you’d find across India, and Spicy Venue does full justice to tongue-burning tradition by serving up raw, unadulterated spice guaranteed to make even the bravest of us break out into a sweat. In fact, I’d like to think that you’d sweat off most of the calories before they have a chance to pile up in unsightly ways around your body. A good thing if that were true, since I’ve always left this place on past visits having violently exceeded all humanly stomach capacity restrictions.
Spicy Venue is a tranquil little place despite being steps away from the busy main street in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. It has the warm homely air of a little cottage with red brick tiles, quietly surrounded by potted plants and tall banana trees. The perfect deceptive calm before the spice storm to follow.
Their menu is pretty extensive, with a range of South Indian treats, North Indian curries, and of course, the token Chinese dishes thrown in for a good measure. But in a place like this, you’d want to stick to the South Indian goods – that’s where the real heat is at. My favorite – and frankly, only main order since my first visit here – has been the ‘bottomless’ thali – a steel plate holding seven cups of different veggies and daals, served with papadums, roti and rice, and all refilled to the brim as many times as you like.
This recent trip to Spicy Venue reminded me of some of my favorite South Indian flavor combos, like the shaved toasted coconut in my two bowls of sauteed okra and green beans, or the flu-defying tomato and black pepper combination in the soupy rasam, or the aromatic curry leaves and sour tamarind in the traditional lentil-based sambar. I shamlessly chowed down bowl after bowl, rejoicing in each coconutty, tangy, peppery mouthful, while sniffling like a baby at the dangerous heaps of spice that they’d shoveled into the food.
For those with a spicy death wish (or looking to impress a first…and likely last…date), the servers strategically place sour pickles (achar) and an explosive daal-red chilli powder mix (appropriately called gunpowder) right in the center of your table.
If a bottomless thaali wasn’t enough to fill my appetite, I also ordered a bowl of crispy fried quails. Now for those of you unfortunate beings who haven’t had the opportunity of trying quails before, they’re basically these super tiny birds…in fact, way too tiny to hold much meat at all. But their small size has the flip advantage of being able to soak up the marinade (in this case, garlic, green chillies, onions, pepper…and maybe even soy sauce? or vinegar?) through and through, sealing up the flavor within their crunchy brown deep-fried skins.I will admit to having felt a tad bit guilty about sinking my jaws into this frail, delicate bird…though a few crackly golden fried bites of quail later, all compassion was swallowed and I was pretty much back to being my barbaric meat-loving self.
Yin, my fellow Hyderabadi food explorer and partner-in-gluttony, experimented with the fish biryani rather than ordering a thaali like the rest of us. Contrary to all my skeptical expectations (Yin, don’t do it! Don’t deviate from the norm! Biryani must only be ordered at a few select places in Hyderabad! noooo…), it was lip-smackingly phenomenal! If I ever found long-lost treasures deep below the sea somewhere, God I hope they taste something of those orange masala’d cubes of juicy fish meat, steeped in South Indian spices, yogurt marinade and onions, and sprawled out across a mound of steamy yellow and red-speckled biryani rice. It was such a huge portion that we packed up the precious remains and reopened the treasure box again for lunch the next day.This is one of those secretly awesome dishes on the menu that you discover by accident, but that’s totally going to become a tradition everytime I visit Hyderabad (tradition = bottomless thaali + quails + pot of fish biryani). Thanks Yin, you totally hit jackpot with this one.
No spicy meal should be concluded without extinguishing the fires ignited in one’s stomach, with the typical choice of tummy coolant at Spicy Venue being their tangy orange ice cream. Alas! they were out of it this time…so I went with their next best tummy tranquilizer, a bowl of plain yogurt, that tasted so rich and creamy that I bet they make it fresh in their own kitchens each day.
Spicy Venue has always been, and still is, one of the highlights of my many dining experiences in Hyderabad. For those who can muster up the courage to riddle their tongue with spice-singed holes in return for true homestyle Andhra flavor, this is definitely a meal to not be missed.