All that hype about “Kesar da Dhaba”, its tall claims of the real Punjabi taste and tarka of its food, its impressive list of celebrity patrons and its nomination as one of the top dhabas of Amritsar fuelled my curiosity and I had to have a first hand experience there.
I was not a first timer, but a lot of water has flown under the bridges of the mighty Beas since 2004, when I was last there. The legendary Kesar da Dhaba has led famished souls to satiety since 1916. Those times were different, simpler with border confined Indian cuisines and the prosperity of agrarian Punjab showed in its food rich in butter and ghee complimented by dripping Paranthas and Naans. If this still is the scale to measure opulence, Amritsar clearly wins with Kesar’s ghee laden fare.
Located in the narrow lanes of Amritsar, where parking can become a problem, the dhaba specializes in serving twenty three dishes every day. Mr. Mehra of Kesar claims to prepare each dish with the uniqueness of its taste and texture preserved.
However, I must say that the ambience could not get a lift with the centrally air conditioned hall as one couldn’t miss the ugly blemishes on the walls of the Dhaba but then I was not in a five star hotel. The regular thali with mah di daal, cholle, raita and laccha paranthas (Rs 130/-) failed to impress my taste buds. Perhaps the hype had raised the expectations very high.
The slow cooked mah di daal which is a must on every Punjabi thali had the characteristic taste of the pyaz and adrak ka tarka in desi ghee (minus tomatoes). It was good, but has a tough competition in Amritsar. The taste of Punjabi cholle was over powered by the garam masala. Having tasted preparations in the interiors of Amritsar which dish out the most mouth watering and heavenly Punjabi cholle, I would not recommend Kesar’s cholles.
Going by my instincts now, I ordered baingan ka bhartha (Rs. 40) cooked and bhunoed with lots of tomatoes and onions in desi ghee was good and made up for the disappointing channas. Shahi paneer (Rs.85) in its shahi andaaz was creamy and mildly spiced. The Punjabi style alu gobhi was made in desi ghee in traditional baraat style. This dish and dahi raita complimented each other well on my thali. I had my two thumbs up for the Palak paneer (Rs. 75). The soft flavoured paneer added to the palak while cooking it in ghee enhanced the real rustic dhaba taste in every bite. But it was the laccha Parantha (Rs. 20) that was the best. The crispy layered parantha done to perfection is the real highlight at Kesar.
The final highlight on my thali was the dessert, phirni served chilled in earthen bowls. This was a surprising departure from the routine ice creams and kulfis served in dhabas and a refreshing and sweet way to end my mission “Kesar da dhaba.”
Ratings out of 5
Food: 3.5 | Ambiance: 3.5 | Service: 4.0 |Overall: 3.50
Meal for Two: 200 | Alcohol: No | Credit Card: No|
Address: Kesar da Dhaba, Chowk Passian, Amritsar | Phone+91-98155-76117 , +91-80545-02227