The Oakham Curry Club prides itself on seeking out the best curry venues around Shanghai. With its international reputation preceding it, in as little as 18 months it has already established itself as the premier curry club in both the city and even mainland China.
As such, it came as no surprise when the OCC was extended an invite to attend an exclusive, private dining curry experience. Excited, the members descended upon the Xintiandi flat of our gracious host Anu – who’s apartment for these nights adopts the moniker Desi Dhaba. With Desi meaning ‘home,’ and ‘Dhaba’ referring to roadside restaurants, Anu had promised a night of fun, homely North Indian style cuisine.
Customer care 9.4
With only one group of diners to wait upon, the first thing that struck members was the customer care on display – not just from Anu but also her hired help for the evening. Upon entering the apartment, all guests were greeted with a gin-based, curry-inspired cocktail replete with coriander and chili garnishing. As we were seated, we were presented with customsised OCC menus – a welcome nod to the club’s status – while as the evening progressed, Anu would excitedly introduce all dishes being served with warmth and humour.
Although the staff only had one table to wait upon, it should be noted that that table was full of discerning curry enthusiasts. Despite this, the service was similarly top-notch. Drinks were replenished at breakneck speed, and even an unfortunate breaking of a table by one over enthusiastic member was repaired after a toolkit was swiftly produced.
If the customer care and service were outstanding, the quality of the meal itself was faultless –from the aforementioned welcome cocktail all the way down to the dessert. To begin, we were served pakoras and a delightful fish masala, but the star of the show that was the entrees was still to come. The nargasi kofta, or Indian scotch eggs – quail eggs covered in Bombay-spiced lamb mince – impressed with its inventiveness and left us hungry for more.
The mains only picked up from where the entrees left off. The aloo gobi and the classic north Indian sarson da saag with paneer were both fantastic, while even the daal – so often an afterthought – was next level, with a hefty dosing of coriander bringing the dish to life. The butter chicken was doused in a thick, satisfying gravy, and the lamb pieces in the karahi gosht were tender enough to just about melt in the mouth.
Satisfyingly, where most places in Shanghai have faltered by erring on the side of conservatism, the mains at Desi Dhaba were well-spiced enough to prompt a few surreptitious brow wipes, without overpowering anything.
A good meal is like Phil Collin’s classic “In The Air Tonight;” it’s all about the build-up to the climax. Given the dishes we had already been served, we had assumed the proverbial drum solo had already come and gone – but then dessert came. A gulab jamun cheesecake, topped with shaved pistachis and saffron; another delightful fusion between the best of Western and Indian cuisines that finished the evening on the perfect note and helped secure Desi Dhaba’s outstanding score of 9.5 out of 10 for quality.
As Anu and Desi Dhaba are only beginning to embark on their journey of exclusive curry evenings, the OCC was only charged cost price for the evening. As such the event was rightly viewed as an absolute steal in terms of value, given the quality on offer and the copious amounts of alcohol supplied. It should be noted that as Desi Dhaba hopefully grows, this pricing structure will no doubt change as well.
The scores indicate that atmosphere – at 7.3 – was the lowest score for the venue. That’s not to say it was a weakness, however. The apartment was tastefully decorated, while the background music was suitably Indian-inpsired for the evening. The one downside that held back the atmosphere from hitting the high notes of the rest of the evening was Anu’s cute and appropriately named dog Gali (curry in Mandarin); while friendly, he did quite vocally take less of a shine to some members.
Overall, as the scores indicate, the OCC’s experience at Desi Dhaba was superlative. However it must be noted that serving a private dinner varies dramatically from running a restaurant
Our mission is to seek out the best Indian restaurants in the city for the people of Shanghai to enjoy and as such, we feel it is not fair to include it in the running for the coveted Curry House of the Year (CHOTY) – an award which its remarkable overall score of 8.9 would surely see it take home comfortably.
However, for anyone looking to seek out the upper echelons of Indian cuisine with a modern twist, along with unrivalled customer care from a very welcoming host, look no further than Anu’s Desi Dhaba. Whether you’re entertaining a group of curry enthusiasts or simply hosting a dinner party and looking to impress your guests, we can wholeheartedly recommend her services.
Anu can be added on WeChat at anu_aggs