I recently had the pleasure of eating at a place that I’ve been wanting to check out for some time. The initial reviews for Southern Spice, located deep in the heart of Flushing, Queens, at the end of the 7 train, already had my mouth watering for some spicy Tamil and Chettinad (South Indian) dishes, and I hoped my long trek out there would not be in vain. The food was supposed to be HOT (on the chili scale, that is)–something that most Indian restaurants in Manhattan cannot deliver to my liking—and the flavors unique, and on both counts Southern Spice surpassed my expectations
A fairly simple, clean, and non-descript restaurant in the midst of a residential neighborhood, Southern Spice has been open for about a year, and seems to attract a lot of local clientele by the look of the largely Indian crowd who filled the place on a Friday night (always a good sign, when you’re going for any authentic ethnic dining experience). I went with two Sri Lankan friends, so I knew we would not have to order any of the dishes “mild.” In fact, when the waiter came to take our order, I told him to turn up the heat a few notches, since we could take it.
The menu was filled with all kinds of dishes like shark and mutton (goat) that you don’t normally find at standard Indian restaurants. That’s probably because what we as Americans know as Indian food is usually Punjabi food from the north. India, being a huge country, holds a great diversity of regional cuisines, each of them distinct, and if you want to find out more about that, I recommend the book Eating India, by Chitrita Banerjee, in which she literally eats her way across the country.mutton in a mint coconut milk curry
Of course, I would have wanted to try everything on the menu, but we finally settled on Chicken 65, the restaurant’s signature dish and supposedly the HOTTEST; Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma (Goat in Coconut Mint Curry); Kingfish in Tamarind sauce; Eggplant curry; and Garlic naan.
Seductive and alluring with its reddish hue (apparently from all the chili powder used to make it), the Chicken 65 was hands down my favorite dish as far as the heat and complex flavors. We even tasted something in it that we just couldn’t place. Now when it comes to spices, if you can stump not one, but three Sri Lankans, you’re onto something good. In fact, the last time I had had food with such unique flavors was at the Anjapar Chettinad restaurant in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The other dishes were similarly spectacular. The mint blended beautifully with the coconut milk in the Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma, something that I’ll be trying to recreate soon, and the goat meat itself was miraculously tender and devoid of any bones. My only gripe with the kingfish in tamarind was that it was only a single large steak swimming in the spicy sweet gravy. Good thing we had a plateful of freshly made Garlic naan to sop up all that sauce. The eggplant, too, though tender and juicy, was all about the sauce, spicy and substantial like a stew. One tends to overeat this type of comfort food because it is just that good, and we polished off our dishes, and were able to walk away well-stuffed and pleasantly satisfied. I also received a “frequent diner” card, which is great because Southern Spice is one place that I’ll definitely be making a return visit.
143-06 45th Ave (and Bowne Street)
New York, NY 11355