Balle Balle Dhaba

I have a load of other things pending, and they keep on staring at me accusingly while I type this one out. But well, I need to talk. You see, I have never really understood the difference between done, underdone and overdone, and while overdone is a bit too much, this was way too much. Especially on a day which threatened to be filled with grief. We were headed for Back…To The Desi Cafe in Sector V, but then guess what? Sector V was flooded. So we were literally stranded for a good period of time before I told D to sod it and let’s get back to dry land. In our case, City Center I sounded close and appealing enough for us to go to, and we did.

S met us at Balle Balle Dhaba. It was her suggestion. I had encountered their food before, but this was the first time I was dining in. As it was raining, I sort of sprinted inside, and looked frantically around for S and D. They were seated on one side of what looked like a communal table, stuck together, and the space looked sort of cramped. However, I eased into one of the chairs, and D gave me a huge grin before hailing a server and rattling out some of the orders.

Although the keema naan we thought would be good was not available, they did suggest the Masala Kulcha. S wanted Butter Naan, and took the server’s suggestion of a Kadai Paneer while D and I went with the Daal Makhni and asked if they had the Butter Chicken, but then the server told us that it was shredded, and we weren’t sure we wanted shredded, so opted for the Chicken Tikka Masala instead. We also ordered Kababs because we are adventurous and carnivorous like that. After the server left, we looked around the place, which seemed like it had a bad case of frame addiction. the walls and the ceiling were filled with portraits, giving this already small space a sense of being smaller – some would call it cozy, but I found it claustrophobic, to my slight dismay. Among the many portraits however, one was apparently of some Jatt and Juliet, a quirky movie which was very popular in Punjab, according to S.

The music was mostly a combination of popular Hindi and Punjabi numbers – pleasant, and not too loud. We were thankful for that, since we were not enamored of some of the tracks. But it was all right, I daresay. The music kept us from thinking too much about the appearance of food. To be very frank, the food came within ten minutes of order, which was always a good thing to see.

Chicken Pahari Kabab

A plate of Chicken Pahari Kabab hit our table first, with a side of green chillies and carrots pickled in a spicy mixture, and a wedge of lime, along with a small bowl filled with a simple minty yogurt chutney. I sprinkled lemon juice on my portion, and promptly lost it because it popped out of my fingers, literally, and went Southwards, under the table. Thankfully, more was available inside the small container of raw onions, chillies, lime wedges and pickle served along with the food. The chicken kabab was mildly spicy with hints of herbs and yogurt – it was not soft, but neither was it chewy and dry.

Daal Makhani

S looked longingly at our plate, but she did not have to wait too long. Plates hit the table with the speed of lightning, and we reached for our food hungrily. The Daal Makhani was soft, creamy, and smelling mildly of onions and cumin. It was lightly topped with a thin drizzle of cream, but seriously speaking, it did not need it. I adored scooping some of it up with the simple Tandoori Roti I had ordered, and then crunching on a bit of onion.

Kadai Paneer

The Kadai Paneer was a surprise – especially because of the softness of the paneer against the spiciness of the gravy it was tossed up with. Generally, I would not like paneer this spicy, but somehow the combination worked for me. There was a film of oil floating on top, but what’s good North Indian food without a bit of fat on it? I have never been able to figure the equation out. S had that with the Butter Naan she had ordered, which I tasted and found to be soft, crispy, and buttered well.

Sweet Lassi

 With our lunch, S opted for a coke, while I chose a Lassi, sweet. The Lassi that came to my table was thick, and was perfect for gulping, rather than using a fancy straw that was added for consumers who didn’t know better, namely us. But I chucked the straw soon enough, and chugged the sweet and salty drink down my throat between mouthfuls of paneer and daal. I did wish it had a few ice cubes in it, but barring that, this was a great drink.

Breads – Masala Kulcha on top, with Butter Naan and Tandoori Rotis at the bottom

The masala kulcha was what D and I had ordered, and it was soft, fresh out of the tandoor, with a delicate bit of charring that comes so naturally when food is cooked in a hot tandoor and smelling faintly of herbs and spices. I tore a bit of it, and ate it solo. The masala kulcha was a thick piece of bread filled with a spicy potato stuffing, which was generous in quantity.

Chicken Tikka Masala

The Chicken Tikka Masala was good, with chunks of cooked chicken in a red gravy. The chicken was soft, and the gravy was a standard tomato and kasuri methi one, nothing to write home about. We had more expectations from it, somehow, but it was not to be.

Chicken Reshmi Kabab

D had ordered a plate of Chicken Reshmi Kabab after sampling the first plate of Pahaari kabab, and these were soft and creamy. We could not finish it, we were too stuffed, but what I liked was that when the server came to take our plates and give us the kabab, he checked the amount of mint chutney we had consumed, noted that we hadn’t had much, and then replaced the full chutney bowl with the one we were eating. The philosophy of “waste not want not”, handed down through generations, was well-preserved here in this Dhaba.

The bill was not too low or too steep – for a meal for three, we had scored around 1700/- and we were all quite happy because Salt Lake City Center I needed one like this. The food is good, and the ambiance and service can be worked upon, and in time it will turn for the betterment.

Balle Balle Dhaba
DC 26/27, Besides City Center I
Salt Lake, Kolkata

Phone: +91-84438-52345

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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