When a dining experience grows consistently from 7 diners a night to 75 diners a night over a few short months, you know that there’s a solid recipe for success cooking. OK, in this case, several recipes. The team behind it are Pullman Dubai City Centre’s F&B troopers led by Sweety Singh of Kakke Da Dhaba fame.
What they’ve put together is an Indian spread that plugs the gap in Dubai’s Indian food scene. The sub-continent contributes to the largest chunk (about 30%) of Dubai’s population. Needless to say, there’s no dearth of Indian dining options. From South Indian to coastal, northern and North West frontier province, Gujarati, thalis from across every region you can think of and then the fusion, modernist and post-modernist take on all of that. So really, what we’re missing is good old, unpretentious, flavour packed, home-style Punjabi cuisine. Wait a minute, did I say home-style and would I pay a 5-star price to eat home-cooked meal? In this case a resounding YES.
Why? Because the experience takes me on a journey from the best of street food to slow cooked, and it is a riot of flavours. Chaat is dear to my heart, because I grew up on what I consider the best kind from Bihar and Bengal (That is just my humble opinion) I’ve eaten chaat across different regions in India before arriving at my conclusion, and what is served at the live counter of the Friday Indian theme night menu here, is the closest to the best I know.
The core of Sweetyji’s menu is the art of developing intense flavours through slow-cooking techniques. No shortcuts. Each dish on the menu has a unique flavour. I had learnt on a previous visit, from Sweetyji himself that Daal Makhani didn’t translate as daal loaded with butter. It is the slow cooking process that lends the lentil a buttery texture, and hence the name. It is one thing to be told a story, and another to experience it. Slow-cooked, tediously for 36 hours over a charcoal flame, this Maa ki Dal is nothing like I have ever eaten before. The aromatic Jalandhari Mutton was my other favourite from the evening. A spicy curry generously developed from pomegranate (yes, you read that right!) and a secret blend of Sweetyji’s masalas. If someone had told me there was pomegranate in the mutton, before I ate it, I would have probably run in the opposite direction. This curry isn’t remotely sweet and it is jammed with flavours in a way that it pulls you back for more. The menu is extensive. I couldn’t possibly try everything, but I did sample the Saag Waala Kukkad, Bharwaan Karela, Kukkad Waala Chawal and Ajwaini Jhhinga. Nothing disappoints. Heirloom recipes served out of antique looking copper vessels is as exciting as ‘liquid nitrogen-i-fied’, bite-sized morsels. By the way, this isn’t me glorifying one over the other. I love both, but this is just to show that in the foodscape of Dubai, you can have it both and enjoy it all.
The menu is also extremely well balanced with enough choices for vegetarian diners as for the meat lovers. I couldn’t sample much, but there’s a lot right from Wadi Waala Chawal, Matar Malai Ki Tikki, Ajwaini Paneer Tikka, Baingan Bharta and the fabulous Grilled Pineapple to go ga-ga over.
Then came the most creative twist on an Indian dessert, I have eaten yet – Garlic Halwa. I have to admit, I felt a bit guarded about trying it. Garlic being pungent, I expected the halwa to have a tiny portion of it, that might perhaps not even be visible on first look. However, I was met by a dish that was laden with roughly chopped chunks of garlic. One of the ‘catch 22’ moments of being invited for a review is, that when you’re met by what might seem like bizarre dishes, you have to politely smile and bravely try. I did my customary polite smile and gingerly took a bite and I was surprised; surprised at just how mellow the flavour was. The garlic was cooked in liberal amounts of ghee (“It’s not a halwa if it’s not soaking in ghee”, Sweetyji had warned me as he served me with his own hands) and just the right amount of sugar. The textures of garlic were all the gradients between mushy soft to teasingly chewy, and made for an interesting finale to the evening’s eatings. It’s not a dessert I would run back for, but I wasn’t disappointed to try it, and it made for an interesting story to tell for the next couple of days!
Many arguments could be made about whether one would pay to eat rustic, homestyle food in a posh 5 star hotel chain. There’s no right or wrong answer. I would. Kakke Da Dhaba is not my next door neighbour, and that’s how gratified I feel, every time I eat Sweety Singh’s food.
For me though, the highlight that evening was the warmth I felt meeting this wonderful chef again, and by the ‘wow’ reaction by which the food was met by my beautiful Australian friend, whom I had for company. She knows Punjabi food as well as I do, and she bowed to Sweety Singh’s culinary magic.
Note: This menu is available on all Friday Nights post Ramadan
Meal per person : AED 219 (Non Alcoholic) AED 260 (Alcoholic) AED 70 (Children 12 and below)
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Address: Deira City Centre, Port Saeed Road, Deira, Dubai
Telephone: +971 4 294 1222