Why This NYC Restaurant’s $190 Rabbit—and Other ‘Unapologetic’ Dishes—Are Earning Buzz
Chef Chintan Pandya is having a blast doing all the things he once thought he could never do at a restaurant. Dhamaka, the sensational hot spot that Pandya and Roni Mazumdar opened at Essex Market on New York’s Lower East Side in February, serves food from the “forgotten side of India.”
There are regional dishes Pandya discovered when he was working and traveling around India. There are uncompromising specialties from homes, street corners, alleyways and the countryside. Pandya remembers taking notes about some of these dishes years ago, but at the time, he couldn’t imagine a scenario where he would cook them professionally.
“These recipes are not meant for a restaurant setting,” he says. “I genuinely never knew what I would use this for.”
But now at Dhamaka—after previously opening New York’s successful Rahi and Adda with Mazumdar—Pandya realizes that his customers are ready for a deeper exploration of Indian food.
“People have matured,” says Pandya, who’s cooking many delicious dishes that seem purposefully unphotogenic in this age of Instagram. “Maybe this food wouldn’t have done well five years back, but this is what people are looking for now. People actually want that real food. People want that real experience.”
The zenith of the Dhamaka experience is the coveted Rajasthani khargosh, a $190 whole rabbit that can be extremely difficult to reserve. You have to pre-order it at least 48 hours in advance, and Dhamaka only serves one per night. Many guests order it weeks before their visit. In his rapturous New York Times review of Dhamaka, Pete Wells admitted that he twice tried and failed to secure the rabbit. New York Magazine’s Adam Platt also wrote a glowing review of Dhamaka without eating the bunny in question.