Restaurants & Bars 6

Punjab Dhaba

bacchante | Aug 30, 2005 12:30 PM

We had dinner at this place in Loehman's Plaza in NoVa. It is a storefront place with a walk-up counter as opposed to table service. They have a small buffet and also prepare dishes to order. The surroundings are nicer than most such places and the prices very moderate. They also have wine and Indian beers

I usually get a masala dosa but was in a pig-out mood and so had the buffet. We also shared a couple of a la carte appetizers that were prepared to order.

The focus is on South Indian food and, as such, tends to be pretty spicy. Some of the real southern specialties are available only on weekends.

The alu tiki, fried potato cake appetizer, was very tasty and perfectly fried. The vegetable samosa was not, although I recall that in the past the lamb samosa has been good. The chutney that comes with them was excellent. The green sauce searing, as opposed to some restaurants where I can eat the entire dishful with a spooon.

The buffet dishes have varied when we've been there. Last night it had three vegetable curries (eggplant, potatoe and pea, and mushroom korma); dal; three meat dishes (chicken curry, chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo); an appetizer lentil dumpling in homemade yoghurt; rice pudding; a salad of onion, tomatoe, and cucumber; and, of course, naan.

The eggplant curry and mushroom korma were quite good and the potato/pea curry standard. The korma was pretty spicy, too. Made from several legumes, dal had surprisingly complex and depth of flavor. About the best I've ever had.

The murgh (chicken) curry and lamb vindaloo both included meat on the bone, which, IMO, is an improvement over standard Indian restaurant fare. The chicken tikka masala was cubed breast and was pretty much the equivalent of most restaurants. But I'm addicted to even bad chicken tikka masala and so am probably not the best judge. The lamb was, well, very lamby. And I mean that in the best way. Frequently it is kind of a boring dish, but I really liked this version. I didn't take the murgh curry but tasted my husband's. We both thought it was very good.

I wasn't fond of the dumpling because it was too sweet, making me wonder if it was really a dessert dumpling. On the other hand, it wasn't as sweet as Indian desserts can be. Speaking of which, they have a few ice creams, including kulfi and toasted coconut. We shared a small dish of the latter, which the owner said had less sugar than the kulfi. It's hard to see how that can be, as the coconut was almost like a frozen coconut candy. It was very good, with a nice, rich toasty flavor. But a little went a very long way.

In all, there were more hits than misses, and it pays to keep in mind that the owner is from southern India. This is a great place for a very moderate meal or as a place to stop for a lassi and a snack.

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