Restaurant review

Dhamaka: New York Restaurant Review

Some of the regional Indian specialties in Dhamaka.
Photo: Liz Clayman

Looking for a fiery new iteration of Sichuan noodles, for example, or a pot of dry curry cooked as it’s cooked in the kitchens of central Pakistan has always been a good momentary remedy whenever the urge to travel strikes, especially in this international city and especially now. So if you’re feeling a little restless after a year-long hibernation on the sofa, and if you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the faraway culinary corners of India – places where regional specialties include well-simmered goat kidneys , lamb chops steamed in pockets of banana leaves and pieces of tender dogfish – so I suggest you put on a mask and stroll through the brightly lit Pan-Indian bistro Dhamaka, which opened a few months ago near the entrance to the new spaceship-sized Essex Market building on the Lower East Side.

Dhamaka is the brainchild of Chintan Pandya and his partner, Roni Mazumdar, whose canteen in Long Island City, Add one, was the darling of Indian cuisine in the city a few years ago, during the grim pre-pandemic period. You can also find unexpected pieces of goat on the menu in Adda, although the idea with this slightly more ambitious operation is to push New Yorkers further into areas where the masala and tandoori hordes rarely go. The tables are set with silver-plated metal plates from the country of origin designed for eating in the traditional way: with fingers and a wheel of bread. The sidewalk space is suspended from string lights and covered with the kind of wavy roof you see in Indian restaurants, and as Bollywood tunes mingle with traffic noise, it is possible to get out of the way. home and see a bit of the big world again.

Inside and outside in Dhamaka.
Photo: Liz Clayman

The dogfish (‘baby shark’ on the menu) is a version of a fish-curry specialty from the coastal villages around the hometown of Mazumdar, Kolkata, for the record, and it’s served here in a rich stew with triangles gently cooked potato fondants. Before he arrived, we ate small plates of pomfret, or paplet, fried in a secret mix of flour and sprinkled with chili, cumin and a hint of mango powder as they do in bars in Mumbai, with crispy fried eggplant nuggets with small jars of invigorating Bengali mustard, similar to wasabi. A North Indian version of the pig’s head salad called doh khleh plunged the pork loons at my table into fits of ecstasy, and it was followed by the Ramadan dish gurda kapoora (goat kidneys and testicles), a fiery dissertation on the joys of texture from nose to tail, served here with a stack of sweet and toasted pao rolls on the side.

To create their eclectic menu, the owners co-opted old family recipes (bharela marcha, stuffed peppers, came from Pandya’s mother-in-law in Gujarat) and have traveled extensively throughout India for years. The most dynamic member of the research team was Pandya himself, who, before coming to New York, had spent years working in Mumbai with the luxury hotel chain Oberoi. During his regular culinary excursions across the country, he discovered many dishes on the menu, including an elaborate rabbit head feast, popular during the hunting season in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, which it will resume provided you succeed in raising $ 190 and ordering the dish at least two days in advance.

Clockwise from the top: Macher jhol (baby shark), pressure cooker chicken pulao and grapefruit fry. Photo: Liz Clayman.

Clockwise from the top: Macher jhol (baby shark), pressure cooker chicken pulao and grapefruit fry. Photo: Liz Clayman.

I have never tasted this rabbit dish (“Rajasthani khargosh” on the menu), although we enjoyed grilled tiger prawns with lots of black pepper and minced chicken balls cooked with an egg inside as in. the kitchens of Lucknow. We ate a delicious chicken pulao brought to the table in the little pressure cooker it had just been made in, large sizzling portions of saffron biryani sprinkled here and there with tasty goat neck nuggets, and pots spicy mutton made in the style of a northern Bihari town called Champaran, where the meat is cooked for hours in clay pots and served with a giant garlic bulb that you smash into the stew with your spoon.

These ingredients are carefully selected (meaning there is only one Rajasthani Rabbit Feast available per day in Dhamaka), and other hard-to-find items (hello, goat testicles) are rationed because when the Jackson Heights vendors don’t have them, they disappear from the menu. There are also a variety of carefully selected cocktails (gin topped with betel leaf, mezcal mixed with green chili and passion fruit), and once the tasty portion of dinner is over, be sure to call for the only one. homemade dessert, a warm, spongy, tangy and sweet curd treat called chhena poda. It is placed in a small clay pot and glued with small wooden spoons, like on the corner of Odisha streets, and unless you’ve been to this eastern part of India, I guarantee you never tasted anything like it before.

Tabak maaz (lamb chops).
Photo: Liz Clayman

Clockwise from the top: Ragda patice, Champaran mutton and gurda kapoora on pao rolls. Photo: Liz Clayman.

Clockwise from the top: Ragda patice, Champaran mutton and gurda kapoora on pao rolls. Photo: Liz Clayman.

Chhena poda, the homemade dessert.
Photo: Liz Clayman

The outer space of Dhamaka.
Photo: Liz Clayman


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