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Dinner at Dhaba, 3/17/09

  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Atmosphere: modern, dimly-lit
  • Attire: smart-casual
  • Ideal for: small groups/1x1, first-time Indian meal
  • Must try: Kurkuri Bhindi; Shrimp Malai kebob
  • Price: Appetizers, all under $9; entrées, all under $21
  • Reservations: Accepted by phone or via: www.opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 679-1284 or (212) 336-3567
  • Website: www.highwaydhaba.com 
  • Location: 108 Lexington Ave, (Btwn 27th & 28th St)

We all know that I’m a sucker for great Mexican and Indian food, so when I read some of the sizzling buzz about “Curry Hill’s” newest restaurant, Dhaba, I knew that I had to get there as soon as I could.
Situated on Lexington Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets, Dhaba’s modern aesthetic stands out amongst the crowd. Once inside, diners become transported by sensual Indian music, ethereal smells and warm hospitality. Choose from booth, table or banquette seating as you simultaneously enjoy the dimly lit, chic (dark wood floors, modern lighting, naked cement walls and colorful art) and comfortable atmosphere.

Shelley and I arrived on-time for our 6p.m. reservation and were seated immediately (in a four-top booth, thank you very much – the hostess had no qualms about this request). I was pleased to find that Dhaba had a full bar and a unique cocktail menu. Shelley ordered the mango lassi spiked with champagne, while I chose the refreshing homemade lemon soda. After ordering a shared appetizer of kurkuri bhindi and our entrees, a bowl of papadam (wafer-thin crisps that are as thin as a sheet of paper; light and crunchier than a cracker) and a trio of dipping sauces (tamarind, spicy pickled onion, and coriander chutney) arrived. Shortly thereafter, a large oval plate overflowing with kurkuri bhindi (sliced, batter-fried okra) was placed before our eyes. Notes of spicy red onions, tangy time and chaat masala subtly kissed the delicate vegetable. Growing up in the south, fried okra has, and will always hold, a special place in my heart; and Dhaba’s version just may be the best rendition I’ve eaten thus far (both above and below the Mason-Dixon).

Roughly twenty-minutes after receiving our appetizer, our entrees arrived. Served atop a sizzling cast iron skillet (a la fajitas), was an ample portion of shrimp malai and grilled onions, in addition to an a la carte order of naan and white rice. The plump shellfish were coated with a creamy marinade, evoking notes of tomatoes, chilies, spices (ginger, turmeric, masala powder, coriander) and peanut oil. After unearthing a piece of the warm and buttery naan, I topped the homemade bread with a couple of shrimp and grilled onions and proceeded to form what looked like a “burrito.” The flavors (ghee, naan, malai marinade, onions) and textures (fluffy naan, crunchy onions and firm shrimp) were electrifying. I don’t think I can recall having eaten a better shrimp dish in my life. This entire meal was, by far, one of my “top 5 favorites” of all time.

For approximately $25/person, Shelley and I thoroughly enjoyed Dhaba’s excellent service and cuisine. I look forward to returning in the very near future.

  • Pros: Full bar, separate male and female restrooms, inexpensive, swank atmosphere, great service, outstanding food.
  • Cons: Rice and naan are a la carte items and do not come with meals.

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