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Dhamaka: The Best Indian Food You've Never Tried

I have been trying to get a reservation at Dhamaka for months. When I saw the name repeatedly popping up on “best of” restaurant lists not only for New York City, but for the entire United States, I knew I had to try it as soon as possible. I scoured Resy for weeks, setting notifications up for every day I knew I’d be in New York City, from 7 PM to 10:30 PM. Occasionally I’d wake up to an email saying that, overnight, a reservation had come available, and I, foolishly asleep and unaware, had missed it.

At long last, one evening while trolling Reddit around midnight, I got a notification that a table was available for this weekend. I took it immediately, then shot off a frantically joyful email to my sister, who would be joining me: I GOT THE RESERVATION!!!!

Located inside the Essex Market, Dhamaka is fairly small but with a substantial outdoor seating area (though, it was so cold on the evening we ate there, that I wouldn’t have wanted to risk it, even with all the trappings of the awnings and street barriers). What Dhamaka does incredibly well is that it combines sexy cocktail bar scene with authentic, varied Indian food that won’t sound familiar to those acquainted with the usual Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, etc. fare in Curry Hill. Not that I have anything against such dishes—in fact I relish in them—but Dhamaka has a menu that feels very unique and exciting.

Certainly, goat kidney and testicles is not something I would expect to see on your average New York City restaurant menu, nor is whole rabbit (something that’s meant to be shared, and has to be ordered in advance) an everyday encounter. I was intrigued and tempted by these unusual dishes; however, I volunteer at a goat farm where I regularly play with and feed goats. Sometimes I'm even tasked with wrangling them into taking their monthly wellness vitamins, so it felt way too weird to be eating the testicles of my less fortunate friends. So I skipped the goat jewels, but did opt for some vegetarian dishes such as the Paplet Fry, Bharela Marcha, and Paneer Methi.

We started with fantastic cocktails, then moved onto appetizers. The Paplet Fry was by far my favorite thing we ordered, but it was so, so spicy for me, even as someone who enjoys and indulges in spicy food fairly regularly. However, I am but a white girl, and my spice tolerance is nothing to brag about. Those with stronger constitutions may fare better. I still greedily spooned out more onto my plate, despite my burning mouth. The Bharela Marcha, peppers stuffed with some kind of sweet and spicy peanut paste, made me marvel that I could find something as simple as some peppers so darn delicious.

Dhamaka also makes their own homemade paneer, and once you try homemade paneer, it will be difficult to go back to non-homemade. It was soft, silky, flavorful, and the perfect way to balance out the also-spicy Paneer Methi. Everything was well-seasoned, delicious, and well-prepared, and the dishes coming out around us to other tables looked fantastic as well. This is the type of restaurant that, despite it being a bit of a splurge for me price-wise, I’d return to again and again just to have the opportunity to try different items on the menu.

The service was fantastic, with our friendly and knowledgeable waiter giving me a wink as he refilled my water for the seventh time, remarking, “It’s spicy, huh?” Yes—spicy, flavorful, unique, and an experience that was well-worth trolling Resy for. Hopefully you won't have to wait as long as me.

More information about Dhamaka can be found on their website.



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