Brick Lane Curry House | 306 East 6th St., Manhattan | 212.979.2900 |

I SUDDENLY THOUGHT that the evening would turn out to be a complete bust!

Not knowing, last night, that there was no longer a stop on 86th street for the downtown M15 on 2nd Avenue, I watched three locals buses pass me by before I could get to the actual stop at 79th. Lucky enough, I caught an express.

But I was now running 10–15 minutes late to meet my very good friend, Nicole, who had volunteered to join me to on a PHUDE outing. Lucky again, though, that she was likewise running late from work.

But getting off the bus, I would soon be struck with what would possibly be the worst news of the evening: wondering why my camera wouldn't turn on so I could snap a photo of the corner shop on St. Mark's Place, I discovered that I had left the battery to my camera in its recharger on my kitchen counter!

As I met Nicole on the corner of 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, I was not looking forward to sharing the news of my misfortune with her. When I did, she informed me that she had herself indeed brought her own camera. Saved!

Both of us in need of a stiff drink, We walked into nearby Lily Coogan's, becoming the only customers in the place which seemed to have just opened. Nicole had a shot of Jameson, I, a shot of Jack, as we caught up on each other's recent lives and discussed our game plan for dinner.

You see, we were to embark upon an extreme food challenge: finishing a bowl of spicy Indian curry called phaal, which purveyor, Brick Lane Curry House claims is the hottest—in both heat and spice—in the world! We had individually seen a feature on it on an episode of Man V. Food, in which it's host took on the house challenge: finish a bowl of their phaal, and receive a free beer and a certificate officiating your folly. The host on the show barely got through his effort; and; although piquing my curiosity, this "dare" only impelled Nicole to make this challenge an imperative!

So after another purely social round of shots, we left the bar and walked just across the street, down Curry Row, to Brick Lane Curry.

It looked, from the outside, to bit a bit more upscale of a place than its brethren strewn on both sides of the street surrounding. Our judgments were confirmed once we walked inside, welcomed by a soothing aroma of rich curries, and surveyed the very homey decor.

The hostess was courteous, sweet, and very cute, and kindly sat us by the front window, where I could use more ambient light from the street light outside to take my non-flash photos. After quickly perusing through the menu—and explaining to Nicole that I've only been off my Nexxium for a couple of years so I would be heading the advice of my Facebook friends and abstainingfrom the phaal—I ordered a Heineken and the Lamb Vindaloo, while she bravely went forward with the phaal—with tofu, strategically—and, yes, a flight of yet more scotches. We had some crispy, thin bread with sides of tomatoes, and various sauces to tide us over before the main courses showed up. And when then did, they looked smelled wonderful.

I chose wisely. Vindaloo being one of the traditional spicier curry options, the bowl that I enjoyed—and did enjoy!—was about as spicy as anything I could possibly handle at this point in my life. Great curry flavor, tender lamb, with little gaminess but great flavor not overwhelmed by the curry sauce. The basmati rice was a great support for this myriad of exotic flavors to dance. The naan was toasty, warm, pliable with slightly crispy edges, and retained its integrity throughout the entire meal. Yet, after eating all the meat, the heat of the Vindaloo sauce eventually was too much for the back of my tongue, even with Nicole's great advice of breathing through my mouth, which does abate the "scorchiness" a good deal.

But this evening quickly became more about Nicole, who even amazed the staff—many of whom admitted they themselves, India natives, could not finish a full bowl of phaal—with how readily, steadily, and implacably scooped huge server spoons full of the hot stuff into her mouth. Most miraculously, as everyone from the server to the hostess to the manager commented, Nicole never even broke out in a sweat. I was sweating just watching her.

She could detect a few flavors, but, as advertised on their own menu, phaal is "more pain and sweat than flavor", although I was duly impressed that she was able to discern the julienned light green vegetables in her bowl as ginger root, after I had already guessed lemongrass and jicama.

I had ordered a glass of lassi, a soothing elixir made from yogurt, mango, salt, cumin, and mint, which she didn't even really need until her last spoonful, which occurred less than a half hour after she started, prompting a ceremony of announcement and applause from the staff and fellow customers.

The ceremony continued with the presentation of the phaal Curry Monster certificate, and the free India Amber.

It was a proud moment for both of us; her, for her accomplishment, and me, watching someone so fearlessly pursue an objective with such zeal and for such a personal payoff. And suddenly, a night that had seemingly everything going against it, became one of the my enjoyable and memorable.

After dinner, we had to go back Lily Coogan's to retrieve a sweater which Nicole had forgotten to take with her. And as we were both in the mood to finish the great evening with a night cap, she was having bank issues and only had enough cash left to get home, as did I, just generally being freelancer poor (having lots of money only days at a time). But, Tracy, our bartender from earlier, was so happy to have us back that she promptly offered us one last round, to which we gladly obliged.

I suddenly thought the evening couldn't have turned out any better...!

Bun Apple Tea!


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Brick Lane Curry House | 306 East 6th St., Manhattan | 212.979.2900 |