While there’s no shortage of curry houses in Central Square (I can think of at least six that are within minutes of the T), Desi Dhaba, the neighborhood’s newest passage to India, has immediately made its mark on Cambridge’s populated map of ethnic eateries. In India, when you’re on the go and you see a sign for a dhaba, you pull over to the roadside stop, order your food at the counter, and watch as it’s prepared. While Desi Dhaba is a far cry from an off-road hut, it’s an alluring rest spot where you can cave in to your cardamom cravings.
From the Eastern-tinged dubs in the backdrop, to the Creamsicle- and maize-colored table tops, to the funky, frosted hanging lamps, Desi Dhaba calls to mind the vibrancy of Monsoon Wedding more than the classic formality of Gandhi. That’s good news for the urban budget traveler. The menu lets you make Northern or Southern Indian dishes your destination without dropping more than $10 to get there.
You could go the well-trod, traditional route with appetizers like veggie samosas ($2.25), which arrive packed with all the anticipated Eastern spices. But at these prices, there’s nothing to discourage you from exploring new taste terrains, which are vast when it comes to Desi’s dosas ($4.95–$7.95). The dough of this crêpe-like southern specialty is made of rice and lentils. Enfolded within is either a jumble of spiced vegetables or a seasoned chicken, onion, and potato medley. For those whose preferences lie to the North, there’s a full range of familiar veggie, chicken, and lamb entrées ($7.95–$9.95), each served with chutney, rice, and dips, and a range of aromatic tandoori specialties ($8.50–$9.95) straight from the clay oven that gives each ingredient a distinctive zing. One note to whom it may concern: since the menu fuses Northern and Southern Indian recipes, the variety of breads — puffed, stuffed, sprinkled, and fried ($1.95–$2.95) — is enough to send any Atkins dieter into a panic.
Desi Dhaba, located at 401 Mass Ave, in Cambridge, is open daily, from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. Call (617) 547-4121.