Another new addition to the rapidly expanding Patel Plaza, alongside , is the small, bright Chinese Dhaba. A dhaba is a restaurant sort of like a diner. In India and Pakistan, many dhabas are found near gas stations and are open 24 hours a day. They are popular with truck drivers and generally serve local cuisine in a fast, casual setting.
Chinese Dhaba, which also has a location at Global Mall in Norcross, emulates the unpretentious, comfort-food-serving dhabas for which it is named. Diners order food at a counter in the back of the restaurant using either a glossy black menu or a large menu board with photos of many popular dishes. The space is brightly colored and decorated with Chinese trinkets on one wall, Indian trinkets on the other and a hanging roof adorned with glassy lanterns, along with beaded curtains on the windows. Indian pop music plays on the speakers. The food is served in Styrofoam containers with plastic utensils.
The staff in this family owned and operated dhaba is friendly and willing to accommodate diners, especially regarding the spice level of dishes. I went with my mother, who can’t handle much spice, and when the dish she ordered was too spicy at first, the staff worked very quickly to try and fix it.
Everything is prepared to order, which was obvious with our orders of samosas. The samosas actually arrived after our entrees because they needed time to cook and were served fresh and hot. The vegetable samosas were filled with the kind of mix you would normally get from spring rolls at Chinese restaurants, but with a definite note of Indian spice, while the chicken samosas had finely minced chicken and the same spring roll mix of vegetables. They were noticeably smaller than other samosas and came with packets of ketchup and duck sauce.
Mom ordered chicken satay, which arrived as three generous skewers of chicken swimming in deep brown sauce flecked with onions and cilantro. Part of the reason it was spicy, our server explained, is because the chicken is marinated in a blend of spices before it is cooked. The thick, hearty sauce complemented the chicken well. It comes with a heaping bowl of steamed rice, which is good for dredging the sauce.
I ordered chicken lo mein served in a box with a lid, which was convenient because it is a very large helping. It was pretty standard lo mein with thick noodles, onions, carrots, cabbage and green bell peppers. I think the chicken may have been pre-marinated for this dish as well because it tasted different from other versions of lo mein. It hit the spot and was very filling.
The menu includes a variety of dishes with meats or vegetarian options, owing to the dietary preferences of many Indians. Vegetarian dishes are served with a choice of six kinds of sauces with differing spice levels. Meaty choices (chicken, beef, lamb, shrimp or fish) include meats prepared Szechuan style, with lemon pepper, fried, in ginger sauce and more. There are different fried rice options, noodle dishes and buffalo wings. Soups can be customized to include vegetables, chicken or shrimp.
The prices are also agreeable. Appetizers are about $3 each and all entrees are either $7.50 or $8.50 plus $1 more for tofu. The small dessert menu, consisting of falooda kulfi (ice cream, rose syrup and vermicelli with nuts served in a bowl) and four different kinds of popsicle-like kulfi, ranges from $2 to $4. Along with water and sodas, Chinese Dhaba serves Indian drinks like Thumbs Up, Frooti and Limca for $2 at the most. Mom and I each got an appetizer and entrée and our bill was about $22 total. Lunch specials, which include a vegetarian and omnivore option that changes each weekday, are $5.99.
If you’re in the market for good, cheap, filling fare but you’re tired of standard Chinese food, give Chinese Dhaba a try. You may just find an interesting new take on a dish you’re already used to eating elsewhere.
1713 Church St., Suite A-2
Open Sunday-Thursday from 11am - 9:30pm, Friday-Saturday from 11am - 10:30pm. Lunch specials available Monday-Friday from 11am - 3pm.
Chinese Dhaba is also hiring. Call or visit the restaurant for more details.