Authentic Indian cuisine in Tempe
In northern India, restaurants called dhabas line the highway and attract truck drivers who want to make pit stops for rich local Punjabi food. But in Arizona, The Dhaba is the destination unto itself. It’s built a reputation as one of the top places in the area for Indian cuisine.
While The Dhaba may not share the same country as those other truck-stop eateries, it’s no less authentic. The restaurant buys from local farmers and blends all of its spices in house. Its extensive menu offers traditional Indian dishes with plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Start off with the plentiful meat-filled tandoori khazana. The appetizer is an assorted platter of chicken, chicken tikka kebab, seekh kebab (minced meat with spices) and prawns that are cooked in a tandoor clay oven. We especially liked the flavorful chicken and prawns coated with cayenne, red chili powder and other spices.
For the main course, try the Dhaba chicken korma. Tender chicken chunks arrive swimming in a creamy, nutty and mildly spicy curry (the kitchen can turn up the heat; just ask your friendly server). Be sure to order a side of garlic naan or chilli naan (stuffed with spices like cumin seeds, kalonji and green chiles) to sop up the wonderful curry. Or change up your protein with jhinga tandoori, garam masala-rubbed shrimp that’s marinated with yogurt and spices, or Peshawari gosht biryani, basmati rice studded with lamb pieces marinated in a yogurt sauce and raita.
Vegetarians have many options, including palak paneer (soft cottage cheese cubes in a thick spinach sauce), narur sarson da saag (a Punjabi favorite of mustard greens, herbs, spices and butter), sialkoti rajmah (curried red kidney beans in a tangy tomato sauce) and chana palak (slow-cooked chickpeas and spinach with herbs).
For dessert, try the kulfi made with milk, pistachios and cardamom seeds. The thick, rich ice cream is a sweet way to end dinner, especially when coupled with a steaming cup of masala chai.
The contemporary Indian restaurant provides a list of wines chosen specifically to pair with the dishes. Go local with Arizona’s Oak Creek Vineyard Fume Blanc, which goes well with the palak paneer. Or accompany the chicken korma with a glass of Sula Shiraz from India. There’s also a selection of dessert wines (including Rainwater Madeira and Terras Porto) and a sweets-friendly champagne (Wycliff Brut Sparkling from California).
You also can choose from popular Indian beers (Flying Horse, Kingfisher), sodas (Maaza, Thums Up, Limca, Fanta) or traditional mango lassis, yogurt drinks that are as thick as milkshakes.
The Location and More
Located just a few blocks east of Arizona State University in Tempe, The Dhaba resides in a small, unassuming strip mall that’s also home to an Indian grocery store and specialty market (in case your meal inspires you to pick up some spices to do some cooking at home) along with a gift shop selling Bollywood films and more.
When preparing your visit to the Tempe restaurant, be aware that the long dining room seats roughly a dozen or so tables. You’ll want to secure reservations, especially if you plan to dine there on a busy weekend evening.