Food Review: Ait of spice added to Dubai Design District by Mohalla


It may be named Mohalla, but don’t mistake this modern-ethnic Indian restaurant located in the hip Dubai Design District for anything as pedestrian as your neighbourhood street food joint.

That’s not to imply that community eateries don’t necessarily dish out some finger-licking worthy food. But Mohalla certainly takes it up a notch.

A lazy Sunday afternoon saw us cruising past the street side restaurant conspicuous by its rustic outdoor seating arrangement. It’s the new weekend of course and as diners walk in and out we manage to snag a sun dappled spot near the glass windows to enjoy the last of the winter afternoon, and gaze at the ethnic coir mats that serve as a cool eye-catching ceiling deco.

The Avocado Papdi Chaat arrives first — generous dollops of freshly mashed avocado studded with ruby red pomegranates and bhel with tamarind-sweet chutney drizzled over it. The towering avocado mash can be a dampener for those who enjoy small bites but that’s what Indian chaat is all about — an unabashed open mouthed gulp that encapsulates the whole gamut of flavours, from sweet to sour and salty. Keema’r Doi Bara — deep fried mince meat kebabs on a bed of thick labneh scented with lemon and mint oil and garnished with fried garlic and pine nuts remind us of the Middle Eastern dish — kibbeh — though head chef Advait Anantwar informs us later during out post lunch chat, that it is also inspired by a Bengali dish. The kebabs are packed with mincemeat and flavoured with pine nuts and the combination of meat on thick yoghurt is a comforting one for those who enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine.

The Cardamom and Date Cheesecake comes plonked on a rustic steel plate much like what you’d find in most Indian households that has been dimmed by constant scrubbing. The cheesecake has an appealing pudding like texture and the hint of cardamom is offset by the slightly sweet date syrup with the poached date in orange juice offering up a fitting tribute to the UAE and marrying a distinctly Indian flavour with an Emirati staple.

Mohalla is the kind of place where you go for a taste of India, and come away with much more than that — an intrepid take on an old recipe that piques your palate and satisfies the gastronomic adventurer within you.

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