Highway to the Mall

Our first recollection of a meal in a five-star hotel was Dhaba by Claridges, mostly due to its incongruousness. Rustic white washed walls, dilapidated furniture and steel glasses and bowls, what kind of a five-star restaurant was this? Then the food was served and everything else became secondary. And this to a six-year-old whose idea of cuisine was Phantom cigarettes and Uncle Chips.

Now launched in a stand-alone format at that retail reserve, Saket, Dhaba by Claridges is updated to a post-globalisation India, complete with posters and graffiti and interiors in pop and pastel colours. The service is excellent, whether it's the hostess at the door, the stewards or the chefs, who take breaks from stirring handis in the show kitchen to ask if guests are enjoying their food. The music, is unabashedly loud and Bollywood.

We start on our route with Tandoori Bhune Aloo and Tawa Chicken, which rev up to the table speedily. The chicken, boneless and sauteed with onions and tomatoes, is masaledar like a '90s Bollywood flick and chunky like the actor. While the description of the potato reads "tandoor whole potatoes finished with spices, onions and chat masala", what appears is a kind of bharta studded with onions, laced with coriander and with enough chat masala to keep a road side vendor in business for a year. Think a desi potato mash. No prizes for guessing we prefer the piquant chicken.

For our mains, we order the Balti Meat, a long-standing signature dish of the original Dhaba by Claridges, and the equally vaunted Dal Dhaba, along with some Garlic Naan. Both served in small copper baltis, the meat and the dal do much to drive way the hint of winter chill currently settling in the city. The dal is doused in ghee, making us drown our naans in it. The meat is a rusty reddish-brown, cooked to a degree

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