In the city of the Nizams, where every tourist is looking for the biriyani in its various avatars, a rather older cuisine tends to unnoticed. For me, the rice with ghee and gun powder (a seriously spicy spice mix) served with some veggies is as good, if not as royal, as the the biriyani itself. So, on this trip, I let my colleague take me to locally popular joint with raving reviews from the locals, a place they go to for their lunch fix. Vana Bhojanam, near Road No 2, was packed for lunch.
For about Rs. 300, you get your thali with unlimited rice and limited sides. The first plate came with all the veg dishes and the three meat dishes came a few minutes later. As I saw my friend take out the small katoris and arrange them, I decided to follow suit and set them up for the photo. He didn't care as he started on his thali journey leaving me to myself!
There is no way I can detail every dish, but a few are etched in my memory. Yes, the dhal and the ghee and the butter milk were all great, but the spicy brinjal gravy was the pick of the veg gravies. Almost like a fusion between humble native cuisine and the richness of the Nawab's, the brinjal gravy was smooth and creamy, almost like a spicier, orang-ier, vegetarian version of the butter chicken masala. Mix it up with rice, add the pakodas and a dash of the fryums for a comforting first course.
I did the meats next. All three were excellent. The dry chicken and lamb and the chicken gravy were all spicy and flavourful, but without burning a hole through my stomach. For some reason, I didn't miss the gun powder but looking back, I wonder how I missed it. Either it is not served there or I was mesmerised by the rest of the meal to be bothered to ask about it.
The dessert wasn't winning any awards, but the kesari, to its credit wasn't loaded with sugar. The spiced buttermilk was my saviour and loved every sip of it.
For my next few trip to Hyderabad, I intend to explore cuisines away from the Nizams and see what else the city has to offer.