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Dhaba Est 1986, Old Hits, New Misses

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With the explosion of cafes and middle eastern cuisine restaurants in Chennai, North Indian ones stopped mushrooming up. When it wasn't the fashion anymore, Dhaba, erstwhile Dhaba by Claridges made a grand entry in Chennai with a decked up restaurants spread over 2 (and a half) floors with lorries and the likes inside and very quickly made a mark with excruciating waiting times on weekends. With a new summer special menu, I was invited to have a look. Appears that the old items on the menu have gotten better and the new ones are yet to get there.









I've heard of platters of kebabs and tasting meals, but one with drinks? That too non-alcoholic ones? This is probably the first time I'm getting this and loved every thing. Even if a specific drink wasn't impressive, it broke the monotony of having the same drink through the meal. A problem I didn't even know existed, until today. From Kaala Khatta to Jal Jeera, a new one called the Rangeela, I'm going to struggle to make do with one drink to wash down any meal henceforth. Kudos to Dhaba for this!

What worked for the drinks didn't really work for the starter platters. For a hard core meat eater, the veg platter was quite blah. Two things stood out though, the home made tandoor paneer and a very interesting soy kebab. The paneer was literally the melt-in-the-mouth! The equally big non veg platter is great with its variety, but again, the kebabs fail to impress. Galouti was extremely so-so. Three kebabs stood out here though, the lamb sheekh kebab, the murgh malai and the highway chicken tikka. What the platters have in quantity, it simply didn't have in the dish. Maybe the chef had a bad day at the tandoor!

The one thing outside of the platter, the Tandoor Chicken Momos was a clear stand out. The chicken inside the momos had the characters of a classic momo without being spiked, but the momo shells had all the flavours of both the tandoori masala and the tandoor itself. The hint of yogurt from within doused any overtly hot flavours from the masala to give you an excellent momo, very similar to the ones you get in Delhi.

The main courses are in a different league altogether. The bread basket with a choice of naans, can easily pass off as main courses themselves. Soft, beautifully leavened left even my friend, who is a big rice eater and a bread-hater, craving for more. That, the butter chicken masala is probably the richest in Chennai, made it easier to dunk it down. The dhal makhni was also at its best and was an easy wash down. I will reserve my opinion of the biriyani on another day. The butter chicken and dal were so good that every thing else paled in comparison.

Desserts were excellent, simply because these tend to go overboard on sweetness, but here, the chef has deftly handled that, so even after a creamy savoury spicy dinner, the desserts didn't feel like we were gulping down sugar.

Dhaba est 1986 is at the ground floor at Ishpahani and has been dousing my craving for North Indian food for a while now! 

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Chennai Foody: Dhaba Est 1986, Old Hits, New Misses
Dhaba Est 1986, Old Hits, New Misses
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