Travelling on Indian highways and stopping at a rustic dhaba or food stall to eat that one basic dish, whose taste lingers long in your mouth till the end of the journey is an experience that every Indian can share. But if you haven’t had the chance to head out anywhere recently and your cravings for highway cuisine are getting the better of you, give Dhaba by Claridges at DLF Place Mall, a shot, writes Kanika Dhawan. Pictured, left: Balti meat & dish of naans
The original “Dhaba” restaurant at the Claridges hotel has two extensions at Saket and Cyberhub, Gurgaon. The outpost in Saket is as lively as any real dhaba with its kitschy ambience, Sholay posters, funky wall accents and choice of Punjabi and Bollywood music.
As a matter of fact, it’s the kind of place that immediately makes you feel at ease, and gives you a roadside feel, shouting across tables while devouring parathas and kebabs. The service is prompt and the waiters, well-trained and patient.
An array of appetisers set our dhaba journey rolling with a melt-in-the-mouth galouti kebab – the mince was perfect – neither to runny nor too tight; exceptional tandoori bhune aloo with its crisp exterior served on a bed of tangy, spiced up onions; a tangri chicken drumstick that could have done with some extra seasoning and a typical chunky tawa chicken. But the pièce de résistance was the fried Amritsari fish – aromatic ajwain-flavoured, gram flour coated sole fillet – a sophisticated adaptation of its rustic version.
Corporate Chef Ravi Saxena, Dhaba by Claridges who has created the menu is spot on with the way the food menu has been laid out in sections – Dhaba Bites, Tawa, Tandoor, Patila and so on.
The drinks menu is titled Theka and has sections like Tharra or cocktails, mock Tharra or mocktails, and De Daru for pure liquor lovers. Their wine list comprises eight wines with Danzante Pinot Grigio, Fratelli’s Chenin Blanc and a Moët & Chandon Brut amongst others. But I doubt if people drink wine at this dhaba, something that may not associate with such hearty food, although the wines mentioned here served really chilled would do very well.
While both the mocktails and cocktails have been given quirky names such as Toofan, Gulaboo and Laal Pari (a Dhaba style Bloody Mary), the drinks failed to live upto their funky monikers. My watermelon martini tasted syrupy and medicinal while my co-foodie deserted his Mojito after just one sip.
Moving to the main course, the gracious Dhaba waiters kept the food coming prepared by the young, sous-chef, Mohsin Qureshi (he belongs to Chef Imtiaz Qureshi’s brother’s side of the family). The Balti meat was flawless, with tender morsels that easily fell off the bone, and so was the Tiffin chicken made with spicy capsicum and onion julienne, and served in a copper canister with a perfectly layered ajwaini-parantha. But the show spoiler was a tawa chicken pulao and an unappetising baingan ka bharta.
We signed off with a flavourful mini Matka kulfi and a tart phirni, which sadly hadn’t set too well. The air-conditioning was leaking above our seat. However, these are glitches that highway staff can easily handle. So do go to this Dhaba whenever you get the roadside eatery blues, but don’t want to hit the highway and dine with burping, pot-bellied men!