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Desi Dhaba

The Cambridge/Somerville area has, to the best of our knowledge, only two restaurants that call themselves Dhabas: Punjabi Dhaba (PD) and Desi Dhaba (DD). Having knocked PD off of our list a few weeks back, we now turn our attention to DD, the lesser known road-side restaurant cousin in Lafayette square near the the intersection of Main St. and Mass Ave. Despite the bustle of foot traffic in this part of lower Cambridge, DD was almost entirely unoccupied during our visit. Indeed, apart from Athma and Yogi, the large interior was devoid of Indian patrons. Although the dhaba moniker is typically applied to low grade road-side establishments, DD had a reasonably clean interior with exclusively religious wall coverings, which, surprisingly, lacked the usual underboob. The menu consisted of the usual indian fare, and even featured “Kheer: rice pudding with RESINS,” of which we steered clear. Shockingly, the menu lacked any mention of a mango lassi. However, the menu explicitly indicated that one can order items that are not the menu. Using this as an opening, Athma tried to order the unusual dish ennai katrikai (an eggplant stew) to which the waiter responded, “we have eggplant.” Chat was equally unsuccessful in trying to order a mango lassi.

Our meal began with the bread basket ($9) which consisted of garlic, aloo, and peshawari naan. We were pleasantly surprised by the spiciness of the aloo naan and appreciated the lack of pie filling in the peshawari naan. The goat rogan josh ($14) consisted of well cooked goat, but did have a few bits of bone. This dish left us wondering if these same characteristics would arise from a combination of Seth [Rogan & Josh] Groban. The aloo ghobi ($12), while entirely lacking spice, was tasty nonetheless and had good cookitude. The meal was rounded out by the slightly-too-sweet sweet lassi ($2.5), which, while not a mango lassi, sported a pleasant rose flavor.

Overall, despite a few missteps, our dining experience at DD was decent. Whereas the numerous key failings of PD left us with no choice but to issue it a two-samosa (▲▲) rating—much to the shock of the local community—our view of DD is slightly more rosy (like the lassi), reflected in its solid three samosa (▲▲▲) rating with a two rupee (₨ ₨) price.  In our earlier review we noted that PD recreates the questionable experience of an authentic Indian road-side Dhaba.  DD, on the other hand, is a Dhaba only in name; ironically, in failing to live up to its Dhaba title, it eclipses PD, taking the high road in search of culinary non-mediocrity.

Name: Desi Dhaba
Address: 401 Mass Ave, Central Square, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 547-4121
Website: desidhaba.blizzfull.com
Our Yelp review
Delivery: Yes

CAMBRIDGE + SOMERVILLE REVIEWS

BERKELEY REVIEWS

GLOBAL REVIEWS

RATINGS (CAMBRIDGE + SOMERVILLE)

Desi Dhaba
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Chutney's
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Passage to India
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Dosa Factory
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Shalimar of India
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Frozen Yogi
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨

Punjabi Dhaba
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Tanjore
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Dosa-n-Curry
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

RATINGS (GLOBAL)

UA 84
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+++

Amber Moon (Burlingame, Calif.)
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

India Quality (Boston, Mass.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Little India Restaurant (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Bhanu’s Indian Grocery and Cuisine (San Gabriel, Calif.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨

Udupi Bhavan (Middletown, Conn.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Whip In (Austin, Tex.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

RATINGS (BERKELEY)

Hare Krishna Temple (ISKCON Berkeley)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨–

Indus Village Restaurant
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨

East Bay Spice Company
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

K.P. Café
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Bombay Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Vik's Chaat Corner
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨ ₨

Yak 'n' Yeti (now Chulo)
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

House of Curries (College)
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨

India Chaat & Sweets
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Tikka Korner
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨

Kabana Restaurant
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Chaat Café
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Mehak Indian Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Viceroy
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Namaste Madras Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Punjabi by Nature
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨

Priya Indian Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Mint Leaf Indian Bistro
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+

Everest Cafe
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Khana Peena Indian Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Ajanta
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+

Breads of India & Gourmet Curries
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Zaika
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Mount Everest Restaurant
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Biryani House
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Himalayan Flavors
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Flavors of India
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Udupi Palace
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨ ₨

Naan 'N' Curry
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨

House of Curries (Durant)
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Taste of the Himalayas
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+

Urbann Turbann
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨

Indian Flavor Express
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨

LEGEND

▲▲▲▲▲ — Exquisite
Worthy of out-of-town guests.

▲▲▲▲△ — Very good
To be sought out if at all possible.

▲▲▲△△ — Acceptable
A reasonable choice if no four-samosa restaurant is nearby.

▲▲△△△ — Bad
The food won't kill you, but you should never choose to eat here.

▲△△△△ — Horrible
The food may kill you. Never eat here. Choose starvation instead.

₨ ₨ ₨ — Pricey ( > $20 / person )
₨ ₨ — Average ( $15 / person )
₨ — Cheap ( $10 / person )

Note that the above prices apply to Berkeley. A per-person increase of $5-10 can be expected in pricier Cambridge and Somerville.

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