Chintan Pandya, chef and co-owner of New York City newcomer Dhamaka, usually starts his day at the butcher, bringing his haul — in today’s case, of goat neck, liver, kidneys, and testicles — back to the Lower East Side restaurant. “[In the U.S.] it becomes a very novelty product when using kidney, liver, and testicles,” he says. “In India it’s a part and parcel of it. [Here,] a lot of people want to do it, but they’re afraid of doing it. We aren’t scared of anything, the fear of failure is not present in our universe.”
The Indian restaurant prides itself on taking chances, even when they flop. “We actually fail so many times,” says Pandya. “We keep on trying new things and we keep on failing. But after failing multiple times, you get it right once. So that’s what we keep in our mind, that failure is part of the process.”
What began as “failures” have evolved into the restaurant’s best dishes, like the 16 layer goat neck biryani, an aromatic goat testicle and kidney gurda kapoora, murgh kofta — a bright curry with a soft boiled egg encased in a tender ball of minced chicken — and more. Pandya and his staff also prioritize using as much of the animal as possible and leaving little to waste, like in the restaurant’s dohl kleh, or pig face salad, in which the head of the pig (often discarded) is pressure cooked, grilled, and added to a bowl of chopped onions and herbs. It’s dishes like these that have many, including Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton, calling Dhamaka one of the city’s most exciting new restaurants.
Many dishes at Dhamaka are served in the vessel they were cooked in. The pressure cooker pulao is made to order, and served right in the individual-size pressure cooker itself. A Champaran mutton dish involves marinating mutton meat in a small clay pot before adding herbs, an entire garlic bulb, and baking the entire vessel, which is what lands on your table. Serving the meals this way captures the spirit of Dhamaka. “In today’s time it’s hard to find something simple,” says Pandya. “I feel it’s a very honest product. It’s done with a lot of heart, and I think that’s what excites people.”