Generous portions and an authentic take on fare from his homeland keep Alvin Thomas and friends happy, and replete.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to live in solitude. For me, it’s because of my family, who recently returned to India for a long vacation leaving me to fend for myself. No biggie.
Now I am a man of many trades: writing stories, debating, repairing damaged engines, smacking the ball off the park in a game of cricket, running, video editing, sleeping, etc. are among the things I can do very well.
Sadly, cooking isn’t one of them. And it shows; the last time I ventured into the kitchen, I nearly burned it down. I’m not exaggerating.
Facing a serious dilemma, I have been looking for a traditional home-cooked Indian meal for dinner. It’s funny how beggars can be choosers, sometimes.
Luckily, Nishad – Y’s online editor – and his friend Ansar empathises, and agrees to join me on my latest food journey for home-cooked food.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t take us long to find a restaurant that fits the bill. A simple five-minute drive into our journey, we see a board that reads “Spice Hill”. And without haste, Nishad proclaims that the restaurant is Indian, and that it will undoubtedly be “Keralite” (a term to describe us people from Kerala).
We agree, and follow him into the restaurant; a simple setting in the heart of the Al Ghubra. Seating is limited for 15-odd customers although we notice more seats outside. But, the general aura of the restaurant is congenial: it’s clean and the layout is very easy on the eye.
Still, we ask for the menu, still unaware of whether or not this eaterie is Keralite.
A few seconds later, the waiter – a Malayali who says he has worked in the UK – hands us our menu cards. He also points out that the restaurant has just opened its doors.
We scour the menu – which the waiter says is still under “construction” – and find that there are indeed several dishes from Kerala.
Without hesitation, Nishad orders a plate of Kerala parotta (Indian flatbread) and beef ularthiyathu aka roast beef (which we wholeheartedly enjoy here in Oman; take that India!).
He then asks me if I’m going for the same. I change my mind and opt for a serving of lamb Sizzler and traditional fried chicken. Meanwhile, Ansar decides to go for beef Sizzler, too.
It takes a good five minutes for our food to arrive but it is the parotta and beef ularthiyathu that arrives first. Generously garnished with traditional Kerala spices and a handful of thin-sliced coconut chunks, the beef ularthiyathu is a “blast of spices”, according to Nishad.
He also points out that the parotta is melt-in-the-mouth fresh, and again, much like the curry, very liberally-sized. Much to the credit of the chef, Nishad pronounces the beef to be very soft, and very consistent.
We begin to see a trend in the size of the portions as our Sizzlers arrive (five more minutes later). There are two sizeable portions of lamb chops – done just right – served alongside fresh vegetables, hand-cut potato wedges and mushroom sauce.
The lamb, too, much like the veggies, is fresh and a delight. It doesn’t take me long to wipe it off my wooden plate.
The potato wedges are crispy, and have been done very well, too. A charred metal plate underneath keeps my Sizzler sizzling for as long as there is food on my plate.
One thing though; the restaurant should really offer steak knives instead of regular knives.
Our friend compliments the beef, too.
“Scrumptious”, he chants, as he munches on the last strand of beans on his plate. His beef was soft and done perfectly, too. It’s a surprise, considering that the Sizzlers only cost us RO4.5 each – a bargain, compared to what we would find in most restaurants.
We then ask the chef how he keeps his meat fresh and well- flavoured. He says he buys it from one of the leading vendors in the country, and keeps it in the freezer for only a couple of days.
In all, we have a very nice – and serendipitous – experience at Spice Hill. A Malayali restaurant serving authentic Japanese-American dishes may seem blasphemous.
But I have to point out that the folks here have definitely turned the tables and have created what could very well be the first Malayali/American/Japanese restaurant in town. Correct me if I am wrong.
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you’d like to see reviewed? Let Y know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Excellent food with value for money