Dhaba, term referring to road side restuarants on highways generally serve local cuisine mainly catering truck drivers. Since many Indian truck drivers are of Punjabi descent, and Punjabi food and music is quite popular throughout India, the word dhaba has come to represent any restaurant that serves Punjabi food, especially the heavily spiced and fried Punjabi fare.

               "Dhaba by Claridges", restaurant chain from Azure Hospitality already in Delhi and Gurgaon now steps into Hyderabad the land of Nizams to offer their dildaarpunjabi experience of deliciousness carrying their Claridges legacy of 30 years.  The Hyderabad restaurant on entry gives you kitschy feel of a dhaba with a modern twist n turn. The rope based lamp shades , tyres hanged up in ceilings, Bollywood villains staring at you in all color and glamor, the 30-seater PDR looking like a Jail typical of bars and gives a different experience. The Creative chaos of traffic signals, Bollywood posters , truck art all add the vibe to the place like no other. Theka which is unique to a dhaba isn't just a typical bar but gives you a highway experience there as well with their signature cocktails like Lal Pari, Santari, Basanti , Gulaabo and the mocktails are mock tharras.

               The Dhaba feel menu exquisitely prepared by their Corporate Chef , Ravi Saxena who is integral part of all their ventures and is divided into three parts - Tawa , Tandoor & Patila and includes rustic traditional dishes like Kanastari Baingan , Dhaba Chilli Chicken, Balti Meat and hang on long enough, you may witness their staff's Flash Mob breaking the service tradition into dance of Bollywood hit Foot tapping numbers and as they and take pride of it - ENJOY, SWAG ANUSAR !!!! Now let's get on to see if the food made me go "Dil Bole Hadippa" ??

Note: This review experience is based on Management Invite and was on the house & review shared is honest and unbiased in the interest of fellow readers and foodies.

  We were invited for a food tasting session and Interaction with Mr. Manik Kapoor, Executive Director - Claridges Hospitality and it turned out to be a completely satisfying experience with terrific food, amazing service, valuable interaction with him and their Corporate Chef Mr. Ravi Saxena as well.  We started with Dhaba drinks Aam Panna prepared using raw mangoes, sugar and an assortment of spices and definitely beat the heat kind of drink. It was refreshing . Then served was Kala Khatta which initially felt nothing to relish upon but as I sipped through it multiple times felt soothing and oh yeah , the color definitely soothes you :D. Then followed another refresher in the name of Rangeela which visually looked so appealing and also tasted mild and could have WOWed me. But overall these drinks ensured we had our palates cleansed and ready for Dhaba feast oye.....

           The management had a set menu for the table and so we had no problems choosing the dishes which made our lives and their lives easier. We started off with the Veg starters . Sheek Kebabs be it veg or non veg most of the times go wrong and disappoint me for their dryness or too much softness or not right spices levels but the debutante starter Palak Paneer Ki Sheek with spinach, cottage cheese and grilled paneer all minced with spices and tandoored as typical sheek rolls served with mint chutney was super soft yet eatable by spoon or fork and along with the chutney had the sweet flavor but not too sweet and was aptly spiced. 

       Next came the blockbuster of the lunch - Tandoori Bhune Aloo - baby potatoes cooked in tandoor and tossed in shallow fry along with fresh cut tomatoes, onions, cilantro and served with ginger/tamarind chutney was PURE HEAVEN ON EARTH period. The tangyness that the chutney brought in , the crunch from the shallow fry made it everything a veg lover would ask for and all the carnivores on the table despite not yet done with non-veg starters cleared it soon enough - MUST TRY.

   Next veg started which could have WOWed me equally but fell somewhere in middle was Chatpat Aloo again potato based dish cooked in sigri and served with yogurt & saunth sauce which was on the sweeter side. The cook and the crunchiness on those potatoes were less for me while for that kind of chutney, I would have preferred a more crispier version but hey nevertheless it was flavorful. The veg dishes really made a pure carnivore like me go WOW - This place has awesome dishes.

     With veg dishes setting the bar so high, being a hardcore meat lover, I was to expect more from non-veg startes and I should say I was a happy man.

      Tandoori Dhaba Raan which takes a huge time for preparation where lamb leg is marinated over night in spices and cooked at three levels to make sure the meat is cooked throughout at the same time has right temperature to fall off the bone and also ensure it just melts in your mouth with the fat rendering the oil for the richness and glaze. This has to be KING OF ALL DISHES as any meat lover will go fida for it and do not under estimate the gravy that comes with it, you can go WOW without it but have it with the gravy and you will be in FOOD COMA period - MUST TRY.

      Next came Highway Chicken Tikka which is your usual chicken tandoor tikka but the small chilli flakes in this case made the extra touch and notched the awesomeness of this dish.

       Finally came the Galouti Kebab which can make a food either go WOW or EWWWW. No other way. This one almost touched the right note to me as the minced meat just melted in the mouth and that roti complemented the dull flavor profile of the meat but had the right amount of spice levels to ensure this dish doesn't make you grin- MUST TRY.

 

        With starters UPing the bar so high, the main curse was to offer more and I was wishing that momentum from start keeps it on same phase and I'm glad it did and the curries were competing within one another and notched the dining experience to a whole new level.

        Lasooni Palak Paneer was spinach and cottage cheese based curry and the richness of the cream and smoothness to which the curry was prepared made it so yummifull with the array of rotis we were served with. I personally love paneer dishes and I should its one of the best I have ever had till date - MUST TRY.

       Dhabe di Aloo Gobi was an instant hit in the table without even a tinch of doubt. The cook on the gobi pieces and aloo chunks along with the slight pungent flavor from the yogurt which by itself was very refreshing and this could be easily a hit to anyone who loves gobi and aloo- MUST TRY.

        Dal Makhani is a staple curry in punjabi cuisine and you got to be stupid to fail in this and they knew what it should be and we loved the dish.

        Khanastari Baingan Barta could easily be their signature dish in just the way its served in a dhabba style box. Bhaigan cooked in tandoor , a bit on the burnt side, mashed and finished the essential Indian spices to deliver a tangy and smokey version of curry . I loved the smokiness from the burnt bhaigan but I felt it gave a bit over after-taste that i might not have allowed us to relish the smoothness of the cook on the brinjal. I wish they could have smoked the brinjal a bit early and hat would have WOWed us on this dish easily.

            The non-veg curries were no less of match for the veg ones and each of those three delivered top notch experience with the rotis.

          Balti Meat one of their signature dishes on menu is again a catchy one in its presentation as its served in a mini-bucket. Slow cooked for long hours to ensure the cook make the meat almost buttery smooth and the rich gravy along with it was nothing but bliss. You can easily gulp double your normal intake of rotis if you relish curry like this. - MUST TRY.

            Chitta Butter Chicken now this dish makes you raise your eye brow on hearing the name and Chef Ravi was particular that we do taste it and appreciate the effort. Chitta meaning white is a differentiating try on the traditional butter chicken but to do with yogurt and coconut gravy mix and give it a different feel and texture on the cook.  I was apprehensive to try it as a hard core fan of regular butter chicken but this one was mild, smooth and completely different experience. I wouldn't go GAGA over this but as a soothing one if you prefer a different choice than regular curries.

           Butter chicken - you give me a creamy rich butter chicken, you are my savior angel and Chef Ravi's version made me go  humble. It was super brilliant and absolutely lip smacking - MUST TRY.

          Special mention for Dhabe ka Roti and Missi Ka Roti  which both were crowd favorites was brilliant. Dhabe Ka Roti in particular done with fermented atta was rich and smooth and that fine pungent taste made it go wonderfully well with the spicy and tangy curries.

           Overall if starters set the grand arena for the Dhaba Experience, the main course curries and roti hit every single ball to Home Run without a shadow of doubt.

 

         No matter how stuffed you are, your foodie soul always looks for excuses to encounter sweetness in the form of desserts and I should say Dhaba knows how exactly to deliver that experience and actually hit you right in Dil Daar mode.

          My top pick was the Phirni, the cold heaven served in a chill matki bowl was absolute bliss and interestingly when had it with their jumbo jamuns was a perfect MARRIAGE. The richness & quality of the kova used in the jamuns showed up in the soft and spongy texture and yet pack up the awesomeness of the syrup. Rasmalai was good but nothing special and the stick Kulfi was aptly chilled and again hit it right on a perfect note. The more interesting one was Badam Halwa which to me was literally floating in a bed of ghee and one spoon will tell you how rich and overdose it is. The hot and piping badam flavored halwa was smooth yet a bit grainy to give you that crunch texture from badam. I felt it was good but it was too rich for me that I couldn't go over 2-3 spoons of it. Little less usage of ghee could have elevated my love for this variant but nonetheless it was exquisite and definitely worth trying.

Service & Hospitality:

            Now there are dining experiences where service goes OK -> Normal -> Good -> special but Dhaba crew takes it on a different level with their smiles, their costumes and of course the surprising flash mob dance on foot tapping numbers every now and then . Right from floor manager to the junior steward everyone shakes their legs and its no surprise customers get into and every one is pumped up with the common love of music and food and that is a unique experience which can't be much explained but experienced. Their humble and smiling Director Mr. Manik, Confident and Cool Mr. Vineet Kochar, Head Operations , Dhaba, ., uber-cool and engaging PR In-charge Mr. Amit Agarwal, their vibrant and ashing Muneer bhai and cute smiley face and pyara sa Praveen bhai (our steward) ensured we felt like family and having dinner at home. The team does it best to get your experience wholesome and I can guarantee that its going to be their USP and I will come just for that :) Enuf' said - GO Enjoy It !!!

Verdict:

           Dhaba By Claridges is not just a dhaba style dining experience, its much more than that and there is a authentic dil daar aura in it and I'm sure the IT crowd lost in the madness of work pressure and other hassles, come here, unwind themselves, do thamasha, have dhakamma ka khana and go with both heart and soul fulfilled amidst the chaos in their lives.

              Though dishes are on the pricey side between 300 - 1000 INR per dish quantity is justified and if it attaches such an experience to it, then I think I wont mid to have a nice time here. Do not delay but do call for your table booking as the place is always PACKED UP. Get in - unwind - relish the food - enjoy the energy - go back with a satisfactory smile.

Note: This review experience is based on Management Invite and was on the house & review shared is honest and unbiased in the interest of fellow readers and foodies.

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