Dhaba Raises its Flag on Curry Hill

| December 9, 2012

Nestled in the heart of the Curry Hill neighborhood of Manhattan is a beacon of hope for those who have concluded that all Indian dhaba nycrestaurants are similar. Dhaba, an endeavor of restaurateur and actor Shiva Natarajan will rapidly make you rethink that conclusion.

Chef Natarajan is a veteran of the East Coast gourmet industry and has opened several highly regarded restaurants including Chola and Tadka in New York City. Traditionally, “dhabas” are restaurants located on the outskirts and truck stops of northern India and are widely known to serve authentic local food. More recently, “dhabas” are becoming increasingly popular, emerging in cosmopolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai, and bringing their style of authentic, flavorful food to elite city gourmands. Dhaba, in New York City, conveys the same authenticity and delight with every bite.

From the moment I entered the front door, I felt extremely welcome. The staff was very friendly, warm and well informed. The lamps that hang overhead are designed to resemble the streetlamps illuminating these traditional Indian eateries. The emblematic earthy greens, natural beiges and dark brown silks combined with magenta and orange accents add a very lush tone to the room. A few large communal banquet tables in the center of the room complete the “dhaba” homage. The colorful glass tunnel entrance, decorative spice bottles and steel topped bar with a vibrant colored glass facade, add a touch of modern flair, while keeping in tune with tradition.

The menu consists of customary specialties of northern India as well as a list of British influenced curries. I started my journey with the Kurkuri Bhindi appetizer, a dish consisting of crunchy okra, lime, red onions and chat masala. Not a dish you’d expect to find in a restaurant like this, but one that left me wanting more. Specialty dishes are abundant and each one I tried seemed to be better than the next. My favorites included Chicken Balchao, a hot curry from Goa with coconut, curry leaves and fresh ground spices and Achari Gosht, consisting of curried lamb, pickling spices and fresh coriander. Additionally, the Dum Rice, a blend of spiced vegetables, paneer cheese, basmati rice and spices, which is slow cooked Handi style, was wonderful.

The spice palate found in the dishes being offered is a little more colorful and vibrant than you might normally find. Quite honestly, it is hard to go wrong on this menu. Combine that with some creative and very tasty cocktails like the racy Kama Sutra or the delicious Ginger Lime Fizz Martini and you have a winner—Dhaba.


108 Lexington Ave, New York 10016

(Between 27th & 28th St)