This post is very long overdue.
Last year, we noticed that a new Indian place popped up on Yelp. We waited for a few good reviews to come in and verified with Indian-Anerican friends before venturing 20 minutes (ok, we know that’s not so far) down I-65. If you’re coming from I-65, it’s on Montgomery Highway one strip mall past Steak and Shake, in the same strip mall as Hobby Lobby and India Heritage. Don’t go based on the address in Google maps; just use these directions.
Here’s the exterior:
We had an incredible meal, much better than the other Indian places in town. What did we eat? The restaurant’s namesake, biryani, of course, along with a few other odds and ends. Everything we tried was home-cooked and fresh, not greasy, full of aromatic spices, and with just the right amount of heat – they weren’t trying to dilute the experience in any way.
We also noticed that in addition to the usual menu items, they had some items I had never seen before. Specifically, we noticed that the menu advertised their biryani as “Hyderbadi biryani.” I’d had biryani before, but wasn’t familiar with food from Hyderbad specifically, or what to look for. We also noticed some other dishes, like gobi manchurian, that were completely unfamiliar to me. I needed to call in some experts.
In the meantime, I did some serious Wikipedia research. Biryani is a rice dish that is very distinctly Indian; every region of India has its own variety. Hyderbadi biryani, like other Hyderbadi cuisine, is known for being particularly aromatic, with a strong Middle Eastern influence. It’s regarded as a particularly delicious version of the dish, and is sought after for that reason.
Believe it or not, we actually have some foodie friends, Ashley and Reza, who lived in Hyderbad a few years ago. A few weeks later, we returned with them. They tried the biryani. Yep, two thumbs up authentic. The hallmarks? Very aromatic and spicy, and served with salan, a spicy eggplant and peanut curry, and raita, to be used judiciously on top. And they immediately recognized the gobi manchurian as an Indo-Chinese dish. Just like Americans have their take on Chinese cooking, so do Indians, often involving food covered in spicy sauces. The gobi manchurian at Paradise was very spicy, crunchy from being deep fried, with a sauce that we practically drank. One of the best cauliflower dishes we’ve ever tasted.
Over the next several months, we made regular trips to Paradise, usually with friends. The food was always met with rave reviews. Mr Foodie’s brother, a devout lover of Indian cuisine, declared it the best he’s ever had.
Each time we visited, we vowed to write about it immediately, and each time, we let too many weeks elapse since our last visit, prompting us to decide to return again before we post so that the flavors would be fresh in our mind. In case you don’t believe us, here’s a photo montage prepared by our blog’s photographer-in-residence, Mr Foodie, of our five visits to Paradise:
Top photo: chicken vindaloo, curry chicken (we’ve also had the chicken tikka masala, not pictured); papdi chaat; a mango lassi; pani puri.
Bottom photo: gulab; more pani puri; a delicious dessert but I cannot remember it’s name; naan; tandoor chicken; samosa chaat; malai kabob; and goat curry.
All uniformly amazing.
During these many visits, we learned a few things: it’s a franchise of a national chain, “like Sneaky Pete’s” the cashier once told me, only nothing like Sneaky Pete’s. Each restaurant has the latitude to create a menu based on its chef’s interests and abilities. We also learned that they do a brisk catering business-we once walked in just as about 20 large platters of something that smelled amazing were whisked out the door. They also have great deals-there’s a frequent flyer card (I once got a free mango lassi!), and every week I get some kind of amazing coupon in my email. And at our most recent visit, we met the owner, Al. He told us that he’s been in the restaurant business for a long time-not a surprise given the quality of the place. He moved from Atlanta a year ago to open Paradise. After hearing that Indians were driving to Atlanta to satisfy their Indian food cravings, he decided that he wanted to bring more authentic Indian cooking to Bham. Thank you, Al!
Last night, we decided to return to Paradise, and vowed to finally write it up. After all of those trips, which foods did we pick?
I had to have my new all-time favorite cauliflower dish, gobi manchuria. The spice melted my face a little, just like it should, but not painfully so. “Would you consider this to be a spicy dish?” I asked our server, visibly sweating. He shook his head. “No, maybe medium.” I love honesty.
Then the entree. I’m getting over a cold, and was looking for the Indian equivalent of chicken soup: a comfort food, but also spicy, to augment my Sudafed. Of course, I reached for the chicken biryani. The chicken was bone-in and halal, cooked to tender perfection. As I ate it, a warm rush came over me-a more perfect cold remedy there cannot be. I haven’t felt sick since.
Our server recommended the goat haleem, a Hyderbadi dish made of a goat-wheat paste. Thick, extremely rich, and very aromatic. Per Wikipedia, it’s often served as a starter at weddings, which makes sense to us: it would be great to share. Haleem is unlike anything we’ve ever had before. When Al saw us eating it, he complimented us on our authentic choice. Music to a food blogger’s ears.
As you can tell, we’ve loved everything about this place, which is really unique among other Indian options in Bham. But the biryani is the star of the show. To sum up our biryani experience at Paradise Biryani Point, here’s an excellent review of a place in Queens that serves Hyderbadi biryani by our food blogging hero, Eater’s Robert Sietsema. As he puts it, “You can get indifferent Biryani at any of New York’s old-fashioned Punjabi restaurants, usually a greasy mountain of rice shot with tough morsels of meat and more raisins than you can shake a stick at. Often, it’s been desiccating on a steam table for days. Instead, whiz over to Hyderbadi Biryani and Chat.” We love you, Robert. Nobody could have summed it up better than you. Insert Paradise Biryani Point and you have our experience to a tee.