The Dhaba 1986 has opened its new outlet at The Walk, Aerocity
We all know The Dhaba as the quaint truck-encased Punjabi food restaurant nooked into the cosy corner of the Claridges Hotel on Aurangzeb Road. It drew legacy and applause in same measure through the decades before it was finally franchised and then sold by the Nandas to outside food chains much to the chagrin of loyalists.
Years later, as the Dhaba Estd 1986, moved from various outlets like the DLF Place Saket to the uber leisure destination The Walk at Worldmark Aerocity, one reminisces at this iconic restaurant’s long journey into diversification not just of the Dhaba culture but also cuisine. Now under the aegis of Azure Hospitality the eatery struggles to keep its highway nostalgia, full on Punjabi flair and flavour.
Though the peg-sheg licence is yet to come, the Dhaba at Aerocity has already started drawing customers with its dildaar Punjabi cuisine resting on a centralised kitchen which follows the norms not just here but also in Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
“Dhaba comes in a new avatar with signature kitschy quirk, vintage collages and retro Indian décor of the 80s and 90s, and use of popular Indian weaving techniques in ikat fabrics. Designed by Atul Anand, this 52-seater outlet showcases environmental friendly décor using recycled elements and community tables for group seating. The happening chaos of colours, groovy desi quotes (mostly and deliberately misspelt like Child for Chilled bar, black and white Bollywood posters and truck art adds to the overall dining experience.
As a tribute to the good old Dhaba the signature recipes since 1986 occupy pride of place on the menu which also dotes on its experimental Highway Specials which the operations manager insists have been keenly curated.
As you bite into the assortment of kebabs both non-veg and veg, accompanied with the ageold dal makhani and masala onions, you know why sticking to tried and tested is a good formula for expansionist success.
It all begins with the tawa section serving spices tossed Tandoori Bhune Aloo on a bed of onions and saunth chutney rubbing skin with Amritsari macchi and delectable Chicken Tak-a-Tak. The much-touted Kala Sha Kala Kukkad, a preparation of boneless chicken marinated with blackened spices, does not quite live up to the chant as it is largely flavourless but the Amritsari kukkad marinated in hung curd makes up with its smoky ginger and garlic flavour. Of course there is the Dhaba Paneer Tikka which is a commonality riding high on popular taste buds.
The Patiala section is a zone entirely for the animal kingdom, what with Handi Murg and Tiffin Meat Kulcha filling up a dainty two layered tiffin as a delicious rush job. The rahra ghost may be a new addition that is being propelled but do not miss out on the Balti Meat and Butter Chicken 1986 which are an assault on your dieting days, especially with the tempting Daal Dhaba and Baingan Bharta completing the Patiala experience with a little bit of Amritsar making its presence felt with Amritsari Chhole.
The ageold-ness, if one may twist the Oxford dictionary a bit to convey the desi sentiment, of the place in a post modern environment with luxe brands selling their wares all around glass buildings and open spaces next to the international airport, makes Dhaba a place to be for a shop-walk-laze and eat experience that Delhiites may be looking for in a break from traditional in the marketplace eateries. You may call that the eating edge of the modernised Dhaba or the topping on the rasmalai that the place serves, not even for a moment forgetting the roadside style Gajar ka Halwa.
Definitely try out for a break but the real taste-buds still beckon you to Aurangzeb Road where tradition has done well to not allow experiments, for now.