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Review: Indie Dhaba, South Anne Street, Dublin

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dhabaIt was someone’s birthday, or something, or nothing. I forget. When my friend Simon suggested “the new Indian tapas place” off Grafton Street, I rolled my eyes and contemplated whether to moan, complain, give out, or rant about the proliferation of tapas and “tapas-style” places popping up everywhere of late. I went with rant, pointing out that there is a proliferation of chancers getting away with charging €12 for a tapas dish, so that you end up paying €24 two small-medium sized portions, instead of around €15 for one solid portion.

Simon wisely ignored me, and four of us headed out to Indie Dhaba, which occupies the basement spot vacated by French restaurant Venu. Dhaba has two evening sittings, one from 7pm-9pm, and one from 9pm till closing. This is quite a large space, but it was absolutely buzzing when I showed up a little late.

It’s a reasonably familiar format in, amongst others, Japanese and Spanish cuisines: smaller portions arrive at the table when they’re ready, and everyone shares. I was pleased to find decent sized dishes at good prices. Most of the small plates are in and around the €5 mark, while larger plates are mainly from €9-12.

We went for… eh, lots of stuff. Oh, go on then – but I’m going to unashamedly rob the descriptions from the menu without much, or any, further elaboration. Small dishes first, with prices:

  • Sev batata poori: Spicy discs of Indian flaky dough, boiled roosters, cumin, chutneys and yoghurt baigner, nylon sev (that’s crunchy lentil balls to you, not edible stockings) - €4.25
  • Aloo tikka ghantewala: Spiced mashed potato cutlet, buffalo milk ghee, urid-moong (lentil) centre, yellow-pea-vataana ragout, chat-chutneys - €4.95
  • Theli shakarkandi: Sigri smoked sweet yam, chaat masala tamarind-mint-cilantro purée, black rock-salt, broiled cumin, lemon juice - €4.25
  • Parel pav-bhaji: Chakra-phool spice curried potato and vegetables, salted leavened dough ladi pav muffin, pat of makkhan (that’s butter, pretty much) - €5.25

We all got a decent sized main as well:

  • Naga beef parche: short ribs in a soy ginger marinade served with kakdi koshimbir (cucumber riata) and kandaa bhaji (onion bhaji) - €13.95. This was big, hearty, juicy, and tender.
  • Chutney sea bass: a whole fish in a marinade of shrimp, green chilli, coconut, coriander, turmeric and kokum paste finished with lemon juice and cinnamon - €16.95. My fish was fresh, meaty, seasoned precisely, and with a delicious crisp blackened skin
  • Murgh makhani: one of the small selection of Indian dishes familiar that would be more familiar to Irish diners, this is tandoori chicken in a creamy tomato sauce with fenugreek. As good as, or a lot more grand than, the usual - €12.95.

There are quite a few tandoori options, but it’s refreshing to see a lot of thought go into the food rather than the same old options of tikka masalas and jalfrezis and rogan josh. Dhaba reminds me somewhat of Ananda in Dundrum, only cheaper and, dare I say it, better. Sorry, Ananda.

dhaba lunchDhaba has a really lengthy cocktail menu with some unusual drinks standing out, and most priced around €8-9. I really hated my “Cocktail of Two Cities” (Tullamore Dew, vanilla sugar, cream, egg white, cumin tincture, tahini paste, rose water and sparkling water). Yes, a cocktail with tahini paste is as gross as it sounds, but I drank it all down anyway and it was interesting to try. More successful were a Pineapple Martini and a “Lovin’ Spoonful” of Stolichnaya Gold vodka, gingerbread syrup, Dhaba Insanity chilli bitters, fresh raspberries and fresh lemon & lime juice: I’m a sucker for those three fruits.

Service at Dhaba is absolutely flawless, with patient, well-briefed, friendly, and efficient staff. We were happy to leave a good tip.

The bill for four small dishes, four big dishes, four sides, two desserts, a coffee, three cocktails, four beers, and four Bulmer’s was €166.70, or just under €47 each before tip. I reckon that’s pretty good value for a load of delicious food and drinks, great service, and a cracking atmosphere.

I love almost everything about Indie Dhaba. It’s a breezy, confident space, if perhaps a little brash – check out their Facebook page full of pictures of minor celebrities and models – but perhaps it’s the Irish begrudger in me that’s knocking it. As we were leaving, the manager came over and asked if we were happy with everything. Yes, we were, bar my bad cocktail choice, which led him to apologise profusely for what was clearly my mistake. He advised that the bar stays open late, so we’ll definitely go for the 9pm sitting another time, and make a full night’s eating and drinking out of it.

  • Indie Dhaba recently launched a two-course lunch menu for €10.95, or Indian soup and a “naanwich” for €8.95

6 Comments

  1. Have to agree – its a great restaurant and super value. I was there with a gang 2 weeks ago and we loved it so much we’re booking in again for later this month (this never happens, we usually try a place and move on)
    Next time you’re there-try the spiced okra (small plate) and the monkfish-they were both so good we ordered them twice!!

  2. I’m certainly not going to lament this state of affairs – I love trying just about everything on a menu, taking loads of pictures and sharing them via every possible medium, and many of my customers do the same. And, of course, that’s good for my business. But I have developed a few basic tactics aimed at avoiding the amnesia/self-loathing/bellyache that can come from sampling 23-odd dishes in one short, alcohol-laden evening. First, distinguish between traditional tapas or mezze, and a restaurant that merely serves small plates. Lebanese mezze, Cantonese dim sum and Basque pinchos have all evolved over years and are designed to make sense together. They’re normally quite simple or similar, or both, so are suited to having many as part of a meal. Less traditional small plates, however, are often complex main courses in miniature form, and few of us can stomach more than three of four of those.

  3. I went to Indie Dhaba with a group of eight people a few weeks back and thought the food was amazing. We went for the chefs tasting menu (€45.50 Per Person) and on the advice of a friend who’d been previously, we ordered six meals to share between eight. I would say you only need half that as we could barely eat our mains after all the preceding (eight!) taster dishes. We also made the mistake of sitting at the chefs table, right in front of the open kitchen, where we sweltered with the heat. Nothing really exciting happened in the kitchen so stick to the regular tables or be prepared to drink alot of beer! The bill with drinks came to €50 a head. Not bad value for a massive meal and four rounds of drinks.

  4. WHY HAS THIS PLACE GOT SUCH GOOD REVIEWS!!!

    I looked up the place and menu online, on the face of it, it looked very impressive.

    The drink arrived I had my taste and really didn’t taste any of the flavours described in the menu, I thought “maybe its just an off day for the bar man, never mind I’ll just drink it”.

    Before ordering the food I asked the waiter about the portions of the different types of dishes, so I ordered a dish or two from every section and what I thought would be more than we could eat.

    When the food arrived I was shocked to see were mini baby portions, especially the dish that was under the header “Large Dish” it had 2 crab cakes on it; 1 this was not a large portion and 2 this wasn’t the crab chops described on the menu. I enquired about the portions provided and I was told that Large Dish meant exactly that “On A Large Dish”…really!! I won’t comment as it’s not needed, then the waitress explained in a scripted fashion a description of Tapas and less food means more to try. I’ll explain that I love Spanish Tapas and I’ve had my fair share of crappy chains (La Tasca), great family owned places, and homemade equivelent; none of which had portions as small as these.

    The food descriptions painted a picture of something exotic, the flavours and look of the food after removing the stylish plate and garnish, was no better than the food you buy from somewhere like Iceland (In some cases look and in all cases the flavour). The dishes were all sweet, with no delicate flavours of indian spicies, the smells didn’t scream indian.

    I saw italian (oven style pizza described as naan with…), mexican style dip with mini popadom (not homemade), and British (Tomato Soup on chicken).

    In summary this place could have been amazing, if:
    1, the food matched the description
    2, the portions reflected the price
    3, they didn’t use the idea of street food and tapas as way of robbing you blind

  5. totally agree with Puck! I ordered the crab chop too, absolutely astonished by the mini portion which supposed
    to be a “large” dish, 13 euro for that? The lemonade is a winner. 62 euro for two, we had nothing!

  6. I agree with the last two reviewers. The menu has been changed and everything on the menu has increased in value while the portions have decreased in size. The most expensive thing on the menu when the place first started was the Chutney Sea Bass for 16.95. This was an amazing dish! Went there last month for lunch with a few friends and we ended up spending way more for such small portions of food. The Chutney Sea Bass is not even on the menu anymore. Although even with the increase in price the food is tasty. But can’t call it a cheap it (not that it was one to begin with) :/

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