A few meters off the highway is where the dhabas are, aren't they? It is not very different here. With most of the roads of Chennai becoming a highway (or has always been one and we only recently noticed), a few meters off it is a nice dhaba. But then, it is right in the heart of the city and inside a small mall! Its been around for a while now, but I only got there last week.
Chennai used to have a fabulous dhaba a few years back, with large chicken tikkas and excellent dhal, but it slowly faded into a poor copy of its old self. I guess it never got replaced for a long time and we didn't have good dhaba style food. Until now.
Dhaba by Claridges, the same group that runs the Mamagoto outlets have set up shop inside Ishpahani centre. It is definitely an upmarket place, both with its quirky interiors and the pricing, but for a city starved of good dhaba style food outside of hotels, it is being welcomed with open arms. When we walked in at 7, we were alone, but by the time we walked out by 8:15, there was a line snaking outside waiting to get a table.
Our drinks were a mixed bag. The lassi was a little too watery for my liking, but the paan drink (paan iced tea, I think it was) with its unmistakable paan flavour in a chilled drink was super refreshing. We started off with a galouti kebab. Soft, juicy and flavourful, this was a well made galouti, though the paratha on which it was served could have been better. We got a small bread basket with naan, rumali roti and a kulcha which we paired with their excellent dhal. Phew. They got their dhal bang on and I was thankful for it. Though at Rs. 385 it is not exactly cheap, there is a non 5 star good dhal now available. A khadi chicken, which was falling of the bone and smothered with mustard completed the main course.
The Dhaba Meeta, a beautiful dessert, not exactly dhaba style, but a refined version layered with ice cream, shahi tulsa and gulab jamun! It was an excellent and heavy finish to the meal. All of this set us back by about Rs. 2300, so the pricing is definitely not dhaba pricing, but there is good food to be had here.