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Dhaba goes chic!


IMAGINE THE mud walls of a hut; imagine the local well that drew the shy damsels out of those huts. Also imagine the gardens resplendent with those mango trees. For those with their thinking caps on, it already seems that this is a paean to the sets of a Bollywood melodrama being filmed in a remote village. The setting at Gurgaon's Pind Balluchi in the Vatika complex is indeed that of a Punjabi village. This three-week-old restaurant which serves Punjabi food is aimed at those who want to dine in the casual and relaxed atmosphere of a dhaba and yet don't want the crassness of the street.

Traditional beverages such as the lassi and kanji do a great job of creating the mood. But soon one has to resort to appreciating the dιcor instead of the food. One can't help, but gaze the ceiling in the absence of the kababs which take a while to arrive. The ceiling has been given somewhat of a star-studded sky effect. Eyes shift onto the palette once again as the tikkas, the seekhs, the tangris and the kalmi kababs make their way onto the table.

Tender and scrumptious, they just lack the crispness which if lent to the upper crust in a harmonious way transforms good fare to heavenly. The small quantity served here allows you to navigate through the modest menu. The vegetarians can indulge in delights such as mushroom kurkure and mirchi dum anar, the latter consisting of a stuffing of paneer, and other vegetables in capsicum. The distinct cumin flavour of this charcoal oven delicacy clearly sets it apart.

The main course with its emphasis on ingredients like jaiwatri, jaiphal and home ground garam masala doesn't fail to sizzle either. Regular paneer, chicken, mutton and other delicacies with subtle differences from those served in a dhaba assume the centre part of the menu. The murgh achari for instance is made from especial achaar masala. The murgh balluchi with its onion, capsicum and tomato base is also a must try as are the combo meals. A solitary Rajasthani dish, gatte ki sabzi also vies for attention. The big stuffed paranthas are a rare exception in the otherwise frugal offerings.

The small menu with surprising omissions like sarson ka saag might cast some doubts but other fare is tempting and affordable enough to draw you to this Pind without those Bollywood flicks.

S.M. YASIR

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