DHABA--Curry Hill Indian--plea for recommendations..
I've read the reviews (on the whole, not very encouraging) here in preparation for dinner with a small group.
Are there any stand-out dishes on the a la carte menu? Please chime in with your favorites (not buffet items) and with any dishes to avoid.
Do they actually have a tandoor? If not, can any of the tandoori dishes be recommended?
Since my last full post about this place was in 2010 I figure a quick update wouldn’t be amiss. In short – still very good.
We were there a few weeks ago on a Saturday night. Dhaba is one of those places that uses OpenTable to reserve nice tables for regular customers. We were seated up front by the window where it’s quieter and roomier. A side benefit at this time of year is that ample natural light makes for good pictures. The dish descriptions that follow are cut and pasted from the menu.
Batata Sev Pori - pori bread smothered with yogurt and chutnies.
I order this because I want to make my GF happy. She loves it. My friends love it. Its charms are lost on me. I must be wrong.
Pahadi Chicken Kebab - skewered chicken tenders in a spicy red masala marinade.
Now this is more like it. The skin has a pleasant bit of crispyness and char while the inside is juicy and mildly spicy. Just wonderful.
Chapli Kabob - pan grilled minced lamb with green chilies and onions
Nice and lamby with a middle range of heat. Juicy too. There are two of them on the plate. Patty #2 is hiding under patty #1.
Chicken Kali Mirch - a creamy yogurt peppercorn preparation.
OK, OK, curries aren’t beautiful but a well made one is great. This baby has a heat level somewhere between a madras and a vindaloo while retaining a pleasant creaminess. Do yourself a favor – if you order this make sure you don’t order anything else that’s hot. One hot dish is great but two in the same meal can be a bit punishing. We’ve learned not to make that mistake.
Seekh Kabob - spiced lamb rolls.
These were on the milder side but then, they’re supposed to be. Unfortunately they were a little drier than they’re supposed to be. The spicing was just fine but it wouldn’t hurt if they took them off the grill 60 seconds earlier. Maybe 90. This was a dish that I ordered happily in London over the years. The New York versions are getting lots better but their bane is dryness.
The supporting players –
I look at places like Dhaba and its sister restaurants Chote Nawab and Malai Marke as the new baseline of Indian dining in New York. Any place that can’t match this standard ought to dry up and blow away. There’s no reason to settle for less. I’m hoping in the next few years that new restaurants will open which will take this cuisine to the next level.
Yes, yes, I know. Tulsi. The thing is, London spoiled me rotten. I got used to paying Dhaba prices for Tulsi level food. I know it’s possible and I think it’s going to happen here.
re: Bob Martinez
re: Steve Drucker
re: Bob Martinez
My GF (and sugartoof) both confirm that the full menu is available at lunch.
A warning - they do a good business at lunchtime but a lot of the customers are there for the buffet. People are constantly moving back and forth to the buffet table which creates a lot of traffic in the aisles. Some people might be bothered by this - others not at all.
re: Steve Drucker
Unless something's changed in the last couple months, the full menu is available at lunch.
I'm partial to the buffet.They're usually packed, while still putting out dishes in small quantities, so there's enough turn over so the quality is comparable to dinners. I have some criticisms of the buffet, but they're the same I have with the dinners.
re: Bob Martinez
Nice write up Steve. The chappli kabobs look very good. I remember being similarly disappointed with the dryness of the seekh kabob. It seems the dyed kabobs usually end up looking better than they taste. The kali mirch dish is a surprise. I would not have expected it to be spicy. I'll have to try your recommendation.
I am sure the restaurant is good and the food excellent... and it gladdens my heart to see all you guys in search of good Indian food.. but I must as a CHer do my duty and inform you (without prejudice) that what you are eating at Dhaba is, largely, not Indian food.. but ...British... today, friends, British cuisine is, in the main, indian inspired (ask any Londoner or Brit from Britain).. we (I am Indian) know this from living there and from the names... there is, for instance no such thing as Chicken tikka Masala in India or an Indian kitchen.. but it was voted as the British NATIONAL dish in the late 1990s.
I quite like it myself... when in lon dfon I go out for a "curry"but do think of it as British, authentic...so enjoy the British food, but I thought I ought to set the record straight... no condesencion, all CHers know that good food evolves and crosses borders.... and, on that note you should try the Indian caramel custard someday :-)
Two CH posters (me & erica) & 3 "civilians" who like to eat went to Dhaba last night and had a very nice meal. We settled in and ordered enough for a small army. This is my usual approach to an affordable restaurant where you're not sure what you're going to like &, therefore, over ordering allows for a couple of duds left over while still getting enough to eat. Well, since only one dish went unfinished (the goat... see below), I guess everyone was happy.
Someone on CH noted that Dhaba seems to do very well with small dishes, so we ordered several to start:
-Methi Pakora (fritters with fenugreek leaves): excellent
-Kurkuri Bhindi (Strips of fried okra w/onions, lime, chili powder...): not as good as Devi's okra (by a long shot) & a smallish amount to boot, but more than good enough to order again
-Gobi Manchurian (Cauliflower w/"tangy" sauce): okay, but Devi really has me spoiled on this so ehh
-Batata Sev Pori (chaat masala w/yogurt and chutneys stuffed in little puri bread cups): we loved this dish (had it last time as well)
Mains were substantial. We had:
-Chicken tikka masala (cream sauce, ordered it mild in case everything else was too spicy for my wife): It was very nicely done, with a little kick and plenty of good white meat chicken
-Bhuna Lamb Mirchwala (ordered medium/spicy, w/thick onion tomato sauce, garlic and chiles): Bob Martinez loves this & recommended it... I can see why. Lots of tasty, non greasy lamb chunks in a very flavorful sauce. Good kick.
-Kadai Goat (onions, bell peppers, ginger and dried fenugreek leaves): okay, so my ordering of Goat Rogan Josh last time didnt make it... so I tried another goat dish. ehh. Lots of bone, greasy meat and, let's face it, it's goat.
-Dhaba Daal Fry (yellow lentils, cumin and fresh coriander): served as an entree, this was one of the tastier daals I've had (and I've had me some daals).
-Saag Paneer (spinach puree and homemade cheese): I wanted to get fancy and order the spinach w/mustard greens and ginger, but the waiter steered me back to this staple. I understand why... they do better homemade cheese (firmer, more flavorful) than most places. I really liked this. Again, served as a main (and charged as one).... worth it.
"Sides", etc with dinner:
-Gobhi Paratha (spiced cauliflower within the bread... served with raita and pickles): very nice
-Methi Paratha (fenugreek leaves inside paratha): nice as well
-Boondi Raita (they add "crunchies" and cumin to the raita): I love raita
-Shalgam & Gajjar Achar (asst. pickles, carrots, turnips): I might have been the only one eating this throughout dinner, but I loved it
-a couple of bowls of rice, sized large enough to last throughout and still have some leftover
We had glasses of white wine (well my wife did... she said they were ok) and lots of large mugs of Kingfisher. We paid $44pp, including large tip. All in all, a place I wouldnt hesitate to return to and will.
re: Steve R
As usual, nice write up Steve. This place is in our regular rotation and it's been consistently good to very good. We were there a couple of weeks ago.
Amritsari Aloo Tikki Chaat - Potato patties, vatana, onions, yogurt, two chutnies
A pleasant dish. (My girlfriend took pity on me and ordered this because I am the only person in North America who doesn't love the Batata Sev Pori, her usual starter.) While I liked this better than the Batata Sev Pori I'm coming to think that chaats aren't for me.
Garlic Spinach - Crispy spinach, peppercorns, soy sauce, cumin flavor
Crispy and subtly spiced. This is just a wonderful dish.
Achari Murgh - Pickling spices, fresh coriander, garlic, onion seeds
It looks innocent, doesn't it? Don't believe it. There's plenty of heat here, believe me. I really liked this but I think this would probably work better split among a number of people or paired with a milder entree. (The actual potion is larger. We impatiently loaded our plates before snapping the picture.)
Dhaba Chili Chicken - Onions, bell peppers, green chilis, soy flavor
Another very hot dish. It's one of my favorites but we made the mistake of ordering 2 hot mains. If one of them had been mild it would have made for a more balanced meal.
Chili Onion Naan
Deceptively pretty and plenty spicy. We compounded our mistake. A bit of this would have been fine with some mild mains but since both our mains were spicy this just added to the fire. Their regular garlic naan is first rate and would have been a better choice.
We've worked out a wine strategy at Dhaba. There regular list is unexciting at best but they offer a prosecco by the glass for around $7. If you ask nicely they'll sell you a whole bottle for around $34. It works perfectly with strongly spiced food.
re: Steve R
re: Steve R
I concur! And I had been more than a bit leery, as is obvious by my opening post. And since Steve was so dilligent about taking notes and remembering the details, as evidenced above, the rest of us could concentrate only on enjoying the excellent food. I especially liked the chaat-style appetizers. The only dish I did not care for was the goat which was, as Steve mentioned, full of splintery bones. Mains were on the small side, but large enough for each of the five diners at the table to have a decent-size taste. We also had a fabulous cheese paratha; I thought the breads were outstanding! The place was packed and there was a line of people waiting to be seated when we left, about 9pm.
re: Steve R
You're listening to the wrong people - Dhaba is very good. A few recommendations - the seekh kabob, chili chicken, Bhuna Lamb mirchwala, butter chicken, lamb vindaloo, methi chicken, the chicken kali mirch, and the batata sev puri.
Everything I mentioned is from the a la carte menu - I *never* eat buffets. (How many poor reports of buffet menus at dozens of restaurants have you read about over the years? I don't care if it's cheap - I figure it's worth if to spend a little more and get fresh food rather than last night's reheated leftovers.)
I haven't had any of the tandoori dishes but considering the overall level of the other dishes I'd expect them to be good as well. If there are dishes that appeal to you should just go ahead and order them.
PS - The breads are great too.
some dishes i like (oh the delight of cut and paste):
Fresh fenugreek leaves fritters
Crunchy okra, red onions, lime, chaat masala, chili powder
Fresh fenugreek leave
GOAN FISH CURRY*
Coconut, tomatoes, dry red chilies, malt vinegar
Dry red chilies, garlic, soy sauce
there's more , but that's what popped in one pass on the menu
here in my review on yelp, after my 1st visit: