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$20 Dinner

Hyderabadi Zaiqa in Hell’s Kitchen Serves Some of the Best Biryani You’ll Ever Eat  

You can order with confidence here, no matter where your cravings guide you. 

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

You could walk by Hyderabadi Zaiqa a hundred times without giving the place a second glance. The subterranean space, sandwiched between a nondescript ramen shop and a burger joint on West 52nd Street, has a certain freshness to it, to be sure—it's only been open about five months—but unless you do a deep dive into the somewhat overwhelming menu displayed on one of its sidewalk stands, you might miss the headline here: Hyderabadi Zaiqa specializes in biryani, and it's some of the best you'll ever eat. 

"When I first came to New York three years ago, I didn't see any Hyderabadi restaurants," Mohammad Tarique Khan, one of the restaurant's three chef-partners, told Hell Gate. "So that was my dream, to one day open one." He added of Hyderabadi cuisine, "They cook everything there all together in a slow flame, all marinated one night before, and the spices are so different from other regions of India." 

Tarique Khan, who also did a stint at Eleven Madison Park, should know. He started his career in Hyderabad, and then traveled for work all over the subcontinent—"India has so much diversity, so many different cultures, so many different cooking techniques," he said—and then went all over the world, hitting 52 countries in total. So even if you've had tons of biryani in New York City before, the version served at Hyderabadi Zaiqa is still an eye-opening delight.  

Hyderabadi goat dum biryani, $17.99. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The flavor is incredible, starting with the basmati rice: It's loose, chewy, and infused with enough saffron to get your attention. And there are some 16 different varieties available, both vegetarian and extremely meaty, so you're not going to get stuck in a biryani rut here any time soon.  

The signature Hyderabadi goat dum biryani is the obvious place to start. The slow-cooked goat meat falls off the bone, and is just unbelievably tender and redolent with special, secret, spicy seasonings. You get a generous portion of meat too, much of it buried under the rice. It's a full meal for sure. 

The goongura chicken biryani is also awesome, and also ample, with plenty of dark meat on the bone to gnaw your way through. Both biryanis come with a gravy boat's worth of yogurt sauce, bringing some brightness and tang to the party. I loved it all. 

Goongura chicken biryani, $15.99. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

And Hyderabadi Zaiqa is by no means a one-hit-wonder. There are, like, 60 other items on the menu, about half of them vegetarian, from soups and samosas, naan and chat, to all kinds of curry, tandoori chicken, paneer, and some Indo-Chinese dishes. 

I asked Tarique Khan to recommend a dish to supplement our biryani bash and his suggestion, the dum ka murgh, which involved chicken thighs in a rich, creamy sauce, was a banger.

Dum ka murgh (chicken thigh), $14.99. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

You can order with confidence here, no matter where your cravings guide you. 

What you can't do here, however, is sit in an actual chair while you eat. Hyderabadi Zaiqa has three tables flanked by those squat, metal, backless stools, plus an eating counter with taller versions of the same. You also can't drink booze, but for me, the mango lassi was perfect.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Hyderabadi Zaiqa is located at 366 West 52nd Street, just east of Ninth Avenue, and is currently open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with a break in service between 3 and 4 p.m. 

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

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