The Boston Phoenix
March 18 - 25, 1999

[Food Reviews]

| by restaurant | by cuisine | by location | hot links | food home |
| dining out archive | on the cheap archive | noshing & sipping archive | uncorked archive |

Punjabi Dhaba

Roadside café, Indian-style

On the Cheap by John Buntin

A dhaba is the Indian equivalent of a truck stop. Travelers eating at a dhaba might be served some of the best home-style food in India, or a dish cooked in motor oil. Or both. So when Punjabi Dhaba opened in Cambridge's Inman Square, we were intrigued but wary.

We ordered the mixed platter for two: half a tandoori chicken, chicken and vegetable curries, a pakora, a samosa, fulkha, and rice and chutney. The tandoori chicken was just what it should be: deeply flavorful, with the characteristic rust-brown color of tandoori paste. And the pakoras, samosas, and paratha bread were unexpected treats. Everything was noticeably fresh, especially the delicious chutney. Only the curries disappointed; the vegetable and chicken versions were eerily interchangeable in taste and texture.

At $10.95, it was a meal we could easily have paid twice as much for at another Indian restaurant. Other dishes were also good values. The Dhaba special chicken curry ($5.95) was tasty; potato chatt ($2.95), a tangy potato salad in a tamarind sauce, was particularly good. Though Punjabi Dhaba has abandoned plans to serve breakfast, the kitchen is happy to prepare the breakfast dishes still listed on the menu. Dahi vada ($2.50), a crispy bean patty submerged in yogurt, is delicious -- a clear improvement on granola.

The downside of these great values is the plain storefront atmosphere. Expect to fetch your own drinks and be served on old-fashioned metal meal trays. Service, however, is extremely friendly: express an interest in an unknown dish only if you're prepared for a sample to materialize on your table.

Punjabi Dhaba, located at 225 Hampshire Street, in Cambridge, is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight. Call (617) 547-8272.

The On the Cheap archive