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restaurant review: Desi Dhaba Serves Exceptional Indian Food

Traditional Dishes and Flavors Available Close to Campus

By Jillian Berry

Desi Dhaba

401 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02139

(617) 547-4121

Travel north on Massachusetts Avenue from MIT towards Central Square, and you will come across an unassuming Indian restaurant — Desi Dhaba. The small restaurant is nicely decorated with rich, dark woods and white tablecloths, as well as a beautifully engraved ceiling. The smell of curry and dishes baking in the tandoor (large clay oven) permeate the air and invite you inside to the cozy atmosphere. The menu is extensive, with many authentic appetizers and Indian breads, in addition to rice, meat, vegetable, and seafood dishes. All of this flavorful food is cooked using the traditional herbs and spices that give Indian food its distinct taste.

As we were a large group, we ordered multiple dishes and shared. I would definitely recommend this to everyone who wants a balanced meal, since the entrees only come with the meat (or vegetable) and basmati rice. We had two different varieties of naan (Indian bread cooked in a tandoor). The first type, Keema naan ($3.25), was stuffed with spicy minced lamb. The lamb was spread evenly throughout the naan and created a savory filling, though it was often overpowered by the strong flavors of the other dishes. Our second selection was Peshawary naan ($3.25), which had a sweet filling of almonds, cashews, raisins, coconut, and honey that were mixed together to form a delicious candylike center. Although we had this naan with the meal, it could have easily made for a light dessert, and provided a nice balance to strong spices of the main dishes.

For the main course, we had Aloo Palak ($9.95), a vegetarian dish consisting of potatoes cooked with spinach, spices, and herbs. Maybe this doesn’t sound like anything special, but it was amazing, definitely my favorite of the night. The potatoes and spinach were combined with a little spice and a subtle taste of curry to create a totally new taste. We also had Chicken Tikka Masala ($11.95), pieces of tandoor-baked boneless chicken cooked with a light, creamy tomato sauce. The bite-sized chicken was moist and the sauce flavorful, but a little too acidic.

Finally, the Lamb Rogan Josh ($11.95) consisted of lamb pieces cooked in a traditional spice with saffron and yogurt. The lamb was perfectly tender and balanced the odd dryness of the yogurt; nothing remained on the plate.

Desi Dhaba does have a few dessert options, but we were all too full to indulge ourselves. Overall, the food was excellent and very reasonably priced for the portion sizes. The restaurant also serves a lunch buffet on weekdays from 11:30 to 3:30 so you can be sure to try all the different options. On top of everything, it’s within walking distance, so transportation can be paid for in calories alone. I highly recommend this restaurant when you need something warm and filling.