'Dhasoo', like 'dhinchak' and 'jhakas', is the Mumbaiya Hindi word for excellent.
Back in 2015, Vikrant Batra, better-known for his Cafe Delhi Heights restaurants, most recently opened in Manchester, and their Juicy Lucy burger, registered the word and prepared the blueprint of a restaurant revolving around it.
Four years later, Dhasoo Cafe has finally opened at Sangam Courtyard, below the Latin American restaurant Neuva, which Batra had launched a couple of years ago with Virat Kohli, whom he has known through family acquaintances since the time the cricketer was a little boy. Batra insists this was the easiest of his restaurant launches — he’ll have 32 of them by the end of this financial year — because he had done his homework many months ago.
In my view, Dhasoo Cafe took little effort because it has come straight out of Batra’s heart. It will also go down in restaurant history as the cafe that has brought pan-Indian casual dining into the spotlight and from the initial market response to it; it seems very much like a globally replicable format. Indian casual dining has arrived around the world — as the success of Dishoom in London and Rasa in Washington, D.C. has by now established — and the trend is being powered by the millennial generation, which seems to love the age-old Indian tradition of shared Indian plates and no-fuss, sustainably sourced local and seasonal food.
At Dhasoo Cafe, the decor is minimal and the seating is simple; the bar dominates the restaurant, but the elaborate menu shows that Batra’s heart is in the right place. As he said to me over an Old Monk with warm water and honey (good old grog!), alcohol contributes not more than 30% of his revenues.
What stands out in the Dhasoo Cafe menu is the effort that has gone into making regional dishes as authentic as they can get. The Podi Idli, for instance, is served without any tweaks to the original taste, but the dried beans and smoked tomato chutney showed an appetite for innovation; the rawa batter on the Koliwada Fried Bhetki (prawns would have made it authentically Mumbai) was just the way as it should be; the kathal (jackfruit) gilawat kababs served on varqi paranthas were lip-smackingly delicious; and the Ema Datshi (Bhutanese chilli-cheese broth), was exactly what my recalcitrant throat required and the tingmo (Tibetan bread) that came with it beat what you get at New Aruna Nagar.
The stars of the evening, though, were the Aamchoor Mutton, a Batra family favourite perfected by Vikrant’s mother, and the Chandni Chowk specialty, Japani Samose, served with lip-smackingly good Pindi chhole and the sweet-and-tangy gobhi aur gajar ka achaar.
Japanese ‘Samosa’ in Delhi
Chandni Chowk’s Manohar Dhaba is a pilgrim spot because of the Japani Samose it’s been serving with melt-in the-mouth Pindi chhole and a sweet carrot achaar. Located on Diwan Hall Road, closest to Lal Quila Metro Station’s Gate No. 1, it dates back to 1924, when it opened outside Lahore’s Dyal Singh College. After Partition, Manohar and his brother Gurbachan brought their invention to Delhi and it became an instant hit. The origin of the ‘samosa’, which is one of the finest puff pastries ever created anywhere, is shrouded in mystery, and all that I could find out about it is that it has 60 slivers of white flour flakes. This is clearly culinary genius at work — and its marriage with the accompanying Pindi chhole was certainly made in heaven. By offering it at on the menu, Dhasoo Cafe has brought the dish to the notice of a generation of Delhiites who may never have visited Purani Dilli.
The flavours are traditional but the presentation is hip, the music is a mix of nostalgia and contemporary pop, and the vibe is mod. Just the kind of restaurant the millennial generation would like to patronise.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)