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Highway on a platter

A posh version of earthy highway dhabas, kitsch and all, comes to Worldmark mall in Aerocity

The hip address of Delhi, Aerocity near the airport, has one more award-winning restaurant ‘Dhaba Estd 1986 Delhi’ by Azure Hospitality. A couple of months in operation, and the power-packed eatery is already getting rave reviews. Discerning diners of the Capital have lapped up the food and tradition of Dhaba’s 30-year legacy.

You can feel the vibes from the moment you enter the place till the time you leave it. The feeling of being on a highway is evoked with new age fun and kitschy interiors. This version of the dhaba is once again recreating its characteristic magic – this time more full-on Punjabi flair.

The hype from Rahul Khanna & Kabir Suri, Directors of Azure Hospitality, reads, “Here comes our very own Dhaba, where food is the king yet again. We are thrilled to share that Delhi’s prime food, beverage and leisure destination Worldmark at Aerocity is all set to get struck with Dhaba’s dildaar Punjabi love that has been warmly accepted in Delhi NCR, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad & Bangalore. Aerocity restaurant marks the tenth outlet for us after five successful years across the country.”

I like a few innovative elements in the outlet. Besides the signature vintage collages and retro Indian décor of the 80s and 90s, there is clever use of popular Indian weaving techniques in ikat fabrics and it looks absolutely fabulous.

Designed by Atul Anand, this 52-seater outlet showcases environment-friendly décor using recycled elements and community tables for group seating. The ambience effortlessly infuses the excitement of a highway meal. The creative chaos of colours, quirky desi quotes, revival of vintage black and white Bollywood posters and the signature truck art adds to the overall dining experience. The mood of the restaurant is further enhanced by the mock façade of a building, designed to look like a small town.

The kitchen lives up to the hype. The classic Indian menu is divided into three: Tandoor, Tawa and Patila. Chef Ravi Saxena is the expert at the helm, showcasing his signature recipes, a combination of highway food and North Indian cuisine concepts. And then there are the experimental Highway Specials and newer flavours not only from Punjab but from all over the country.

Tawa

From the Tawa section the must-haves are Tandoori Bhune Aloo which is tandoor roasted baby potatoes, shallow fried and tossed with spices, onions and saunth chutney and the traditional Veg Galouti. For the non-vegetarians there is Galouti Kebab, Amritsari Macchi and delectable Chicken Tak-a-tak.

The Highway Specials under Tawa section has Mushroom Hara Pyaza and Paneer Tak-a-tak for the vegetarians. For the non-vegetarians there is Mutton Tak-a-tak, Murg Seekh tawa masala and Punjabi Kukkad Masala made with spicy chicken joints in thick tomato and onion gravy cooked on cast iron tawa.

Tandoor

The seasonal special Kala Sha Kala Kukkad is a preparation of boneless soft morsels of chicken marinated with blackened spices, finished in tandoor. Amritsari Kukkad made with half a baby chicken marinated with hung curd with a dominating smoky flavour of ginger and garlic. Tandoori Prawns, Bhatti Di Tangdimade with chicken legs marinated in hung curd and spices, finished in tandoor and Highway Chicken Tikka, Sole Machhi Tikka for the non-vegetarians.    For the vegetarians, Hariyali Paneer Tikka, Tandoori-Fal-Fruit which is assorted seasonal fruits marinated with saunth chutney and spices, skewered in tandoor and Dhaba Paneer Tikka, are worth trying.

The Highway Specials under the Tandoor section has dishes like Palak Paneer ki Seekh and Achaari Soya Chaap for the vegetarians. For the non-vegetarians there is Sole Machhi Tikka, Murgh Malai Tikka and Mutton Seekh Kebab.

Patila

Handi Murg and Tiffin Meat Kulcha a spicy mutton curry served with kulcha in a two-tiered tiffin is the star and hugely popular.  The famous mutton curry of Dhaba Balti Meat, Handi Gosht and Butter Chicken 1986 prepared in rich tomato creamy gravy with boneless morsels of chicken Tikka, is not to be missed. I loved Daal Dhaba, Lahsooni Palak; Paneer Makhan Masala and Kanastari Baingan Bharta which are signature preparations.

You can round off your meal with the sinful but predictable Indian sweet dishes: gajar ka halwa, gulab jamun, rasmalai, kesri phirnee, matka kulfi and  rabri.

Do not ignore the Mock-Tharras, these are a twist on the traditional beverages like sugarcane juice, Meerut’s lime juice, Rajdhani Jalzeera, Rangeela Aam Panna and Kala Khatta. There are plenty of hand-crafted cocktails too.

So hit the road to Aerocity if you can’t visit a real dhaba.

Address: Ground Floor The Walk, WorldMark 2, Aerocity, New Delhi