Dhaba Fun @ Dhaba, The Claridges, Delhi: Bloggers' Table
Oh how I love food of the highway!
Thick aloo-parathas, with aam ka achaar, a simple tadke-wali yellow dal or a flaming red Butter Chicken, and a HUGE dollop of white butter, lusciously melting on top the paratha. Served with a malai-daar lassi and good amount of highway dust. On a bent and age old stainless steel plate, no longer stainless. It's the highlight of every road-trip to Jaipur.
So when that awesome cuisine comes to The Dhaba at Claridges, Aurangzeb Road in a festival titled Truck along the Trunk, I was dying to see how that taste was replicated in the class of Claridges. How authentic would a 5-star experience measure up to a very human-centric approach at dhabas accros North India? As it turns out, it scores pretty well on some counts!
At the outset, I apologize on the not-so-awesome quality of the photos. The lights were lower than low, in-keeping with the theme! We were 6 people, one being Sushmita, a dedicated vegetarian. When I got to the table, there was lachche-wali pyaaz, with whole chillies and lemon slices, a stack of flame-roasted papads and three different kinds of chutney. I am a sucker for papad. I went full crazy, snapping pieces and dipping it into the chutneys and topping it off with pieces of onion. The chutneys were good, but nothing I would recreate. There was a tomato-garlic chutney, a rather bland peanut chutney and a garlic chutney (something I'd get at any Pachranga store in Delhi). The onions had been sprinkled with some sort of tandoori masala, and it was asking for tikkas!
Almost on cue, the platters of starters was brought out, aptly starring various tikkas and chaaps. We had a Jalandhari Paneer Tikka, which was really tasty, but a tad on the rubbery side. There was a Pudina-Akhrot ki Tikki (walnuts and mint crushed and bound by paneer to form tikkis), which seemed like a vegetarian version of a Galauti kabab. It was melty, but not in the good way. It felt mushy, and weirdly undercooked in the centre. We also had a Bhuttey ki Seekh, which was mashed corn rolled into cylinders and cooked in the tandoor. Could be more flavourful, though it was quite nice. The rest of the starters were very good. There was a Keema Chaap, patties of minced meat, with a bone-in, to emulate the feel of a rack of lamb. Yum. There was Surjeet di Tali Machchi, Amritsari style fish tikkas, strongly spiced with ajwain, and a crisp layer on top. Sangeeta felt the layer was too besan-like. I loved it, with a squeeze of lemon on top. Yum yum. The last starter was a Seekh Kabab Pinjori. This was incredible. Juicy mutton mince seekhs, studded with garlic and coriander. I could eat so many of these, it's not funny. Yum yum yum!
The Main courses were brought out soon. There was cute basket shaped like a wagon, which carried a variety of breads. There was a Baingan ka Bharta, which was decent, very home-like. We had two lentil-courses, a Sookhi Moong (yellow moong dal, sauteed with tomatoes and onions in a dry course), and a Langar ki Dal, the common and favourite kaali dal. I'm told the kaali dal was luscious and creamy and really good. The Sookhi Moong was very flavourful, but was a tad bit too dry. We followed that up with a Redi wale Soya Bean Masala and Battaley da Maghaz Masala. This was my first time trying maghaz or brain. I didn't know what to expect. But texturally, it was like slightly rubbery scrambled eggs. The product given to us was tasty, but I couldn't get it out of my mind that it was brains, and the distinct taste stuck with me. Not pleasant. But that's a personal issue, and not anything with the restaurant.
The last of the mains, and undoubtedly the star, was the Balti Meat. I have to say this. This is the tenderest piece of mutton I have had. It was unapologetically rich and luscious. The marrow in the nalli was steeped in the gravy and tasted what Heaven itself must taste like. With the garlic naan, it was tasting like heaven, especially when the tender mutton was coming off with the naan, like it was gravy. I mean it. Outside of my home, this is the softest and richest meat I've had. Too good!
At this point, we could only sip at our glasses of water. For dessert, we were given the traditional Pinni (which I found was nothing special) and Roh di Kheer, rice kheer sweetened with sugarcane juice. I found it to be really light and delicious, maybe too lightly-sweetened for some. But for me it was perfect!
And believe it or not, we chugged this down with a glass of cold, creamy ABSOLUTELY delicious Thandai. Studded with nuts and kesar, it was so good, I could drink it forever. Which gets us to our other drinks. We had our juices and mint chaach with the meal. In addition, we had a Jeera-tini, a jaljeera drink served in a Martini glass, with a ice-gola of jaljeera. Apparently delicious. What was out of this world was the Coconut Lassi, light yoghurt flavoured with coconut, but not having that oily smell that makes coconut flavours unappealing to me. It was tasting divine, nourishing and cold, almost what I would drink had there been a beach in Punjab. Okay sorry bad joke. It was lovely!
The festival is on till September 15th. Don't miss it, it's really delicious food, service is decent and informed and most importantly, it comes very close to tasting like the dusty highways of roadtrip memories.
Till the next time!