When it comes to Indian food, I know what I like, and I like it quite a bit. But that’s about the extent of my knowledge. Fearing that my favorite Indian dishes were basically the equivalent of chop suey and egg foo yung to the Chinese palate, I enlisted the help of some friends who happen to know a bit more about India and its various regional cuisines. We decided to meet at a place none of us had ever tried — Nizam’s Kitchen. Our meal was plentiful and delicious, and it was a real learning experience for me.
Nizam’s Kitchen opened in January 2012 and is literally 2 minutes away from my house, but I had never noticed it before. The restaurant is located at 5211 Highway 6 South in Missouri City, between Riverstone Blvd. and Colonial Lakes Dr., just behind the former Idea Party Store. It is pretty well hidden, so you really have to want to find it! The restaurant is small with maybe 10-12 tables, but most of the business we saw on the Tuesday night that we visited was for take-out (maybe because people were wanting to watch the Olympics at home?).
Nizam’s does not yet have its liquor license, but they have applied for one and hope to be serving alcohol soon. There are a few Indian touches to the decor, but otherwise it is pretty unremarkable.
I was the first of my friends to arrive and was warmly greeted by Jimmy, one of the co-owners, and our server. Once my friends arrived, they explained to Jimmy that I wanted to try a variety of dishes that were representative of Hyderabadi Indian cuisine, and he helped us make our selections from the menu. I learned that Hyderabad is in southern India, relatively near Pakistan, so there is also a Pakistani influence at Nizam’s. My friends told me that Hyderabadi cuisine tends more toward the sweet side than spicy.
After answering a few questions for Jimmy about how much spice I like (a lot!) and whether there were certain foods that I didn’t like, most notably okra and goat, he guided us toward one appetizer and 3 main dishes. The appetizer was something known as Chicken 65, and Jimmy promised it was the best in the area. I had never heard of it, but I was told that it was spicy, so I was happy to try it. The most apt comparison I can draw is that it was like an Indian version of General Tso’s Chicken. It was just spicy enough to have a noticeable amount of heat, and the crunch of the onion slices and warm garlic naan were the perfect accompaniment. My friends liked it too. I highly recommend this dish!
We split 3 entrees among the 4 of us and still couldn’t finish it all! At Jimmy’s recommendation, we tried the Grilled Fish Masala, Bhindi Masala, and the Goat Biryani. All of my (non-Hyderabadi) friends were surprised when the fish came out in pieces and covered in sauce. They all said they expected a whole piece of fish with a masala spice rub on it. Jimmy said that on Nizam’s menu, that would be the Fish Kat a Kat. Jimmy told us that the sauce used for the Grilled Fish Masala was the same sauce they use for Chicken Tikka. Despite the fact that the appearance of this dish was unexpected, it was still quite delicious. The sauce had a slightly sweet taste, and the fish was tender.
The Bhinda Masala was described on the menu as okra cooked in the chef’s special gravy. Being a true Texas girl, my most frequent experience with okra is the fried version. This okra was not fried and was awash in a curry. It was good, but there was nothing exceptional about it.
The highlight of the meal for me was the Goat Biryani. I had never tried goat before, and I found it to be exceptionally tender. Biryani is one of the specialty dishes of the Hyderabad region. It consists of basmati rice cooked with aromatic herbs using a special cooking method called “dum.” My friends explained that biryani is a special occasion type of dish, not something that you’d often find at a regular dinner at home. All of the fragrant herbs, along with the tender, mild meat, really were a delight for the palate. This was one of those dishes that you tasted as much with your nose as with your taste buds. There was a sauce that Jimmy brought us on the side. He cautioned us against using too much of it, but none of us found it to be overly spicy and it added a nice touch of moisture to the rice.
We were way too full for dessert, and I took home enough food for lunch the next day!
I love to try new things, and I am glad that we chose Nizam’s Kitchen to help broaden my horizons. It helps to do this among friends who know their way around an Indian menu and in an atmosphere that was welcoming. Jimmy and the staff seemed truly interested in making sure that we had a good experience at the restaurant, and they were happy to help educate us about the menu. For example, after our appetizer, we asked for more garlic naan with our dinner, but he suggested butter naan instead so that the garlic flavor wouldn’t overpower the rest of our food, which was all milder than the Chicken 65.
While Nizam’s is probably a bit too adventurous for my kids, if your young ones have more daring palates, then there’s no reason not to bring them to Nizam’s. If you’re looking for something different, delicious and reasonably priced, go check it out!
Special thanks to my friends and readers, Tanya P., Kavita S. and Raj P. for sharing a great meal with me and imparting some of their vast knowledge about Indian cuisine!