Tucked away on Thomson street between Hennessey and Johnston road in Wan Chai, Daarukhana’s entrance greets you with a pair of velvet thrones set in front of a classic Indian backdrop. Up a short flight of stairs, you are greeted by a collection of whiskeys & cigars. For a restaurant whose name translates to ‘alcohol and food‘ (as well as ‘Bar’), this entrance makes a solid impact!
The decor, lighting & furniture all signal that you’ve entered a special place. This is NOT your average run-of-the-mill Indian restaurant & you should not expect your average run-of-the-mill Indian food. Daarukhana takes a contemporary approach to Indian cuisine.
We started my meal with the Levitate, a Himalayan inspired cocktail that is a delightful & refreshing combination of Tequila, Campari & Grapefruit juice. It drinks surprisingly well albeit with a smooth, warm kick. Served in a martini glass decorated with Himalayan black-salt along a third of the rim. If you’re a gin fan, don’t forget to also try out the Daarukhana Martini, a simple yet flavourful martini with a house-infused gin.
For appetisers (playfully known as “Not Very Small Plates”), we ordered the Palak Paneer Pinwheel, Modern Dosai & Shakarkandi Papdi Chaat. To me, an Indian joint’s paneer is a yardstick akin to a burger joint’s fries (I’m looking at you McDonalds). Sure enough, the paneer was melt-in-your-mouth awesome. The spinach was creamy & there was a subtle spice (masala) undertone. The Shakarkandi and Papdi Chaat were sprinkled with pomegranate & blueberries adding fantastic bursts of sweet & sour flavour. Can you imagine duck flavour cutlet? No right? Nor could when we tried out the non-vegetarian options which included the Duck Shami & Burra Short Ribs. The Duck Shami was a delicious cutlet with some fig chutney on the side. Our favourite amongst the two has to be the Burra Short Ribs, which was tender, perfectly marinated and simply melted in our mouths.
Amongst the vegetarian options, the dish that stole the show (by a long shot, I might add) was the Modern Dosai. Remember what I said about this not being your average run-of-the-mill Indian restaurant? This dish provides the irrefutable proof. Instead of the usual ‘pancake stuffed with stir-fried onion & potato stew’ (Masala Dosa), the dish takes the form of a stir-fried onion and potato foam dip served with delicate shards of crispy dosa. This is the ultimate Indian challenge to Doritos & cheese dip.
Next came the mains: Kurkuri Bhindi & Nawabi Haleem. As a vegetarian, I jump at the chance of tasting Haleem – a dish that is usually made of lamb or beef. Haleem is the ultimate middle-eastern/Central Asian comfort food. Picture a porridge that replaces the carbohydrate with some form of lentils, that’s what Haleem is. And this Haleem was exquisite. It was piping hot, filled with the juiciest of vegetables & garnished slices of chilli and lime.
The Kurkuri Bhindi contrasted the Nawabi Haleem well in that it was crunchy, brimming with flavour & served chilled. I thoroughly enjoyed this twist on the classical Indian way of cooking ladies fingers or Okra. Each bite consisted of charred baked bhindi, sun-dried tomato gravy (yes!) & toasted bits of sweet wheat bread. Our palates were prepared for the forthcoming dessert.
The Sharifa ki Kheer was a perfect ending to the meal. If you’re a fan of Sitaphal (custard apple), you’re in for a treat with this. The kheer topped with some chopped pistachio and flower petals is perfectly sweet (as most of us know, many Indian desserts can be super sweet!) and a great ending to the meal.
If it’s not already clear, we are bullish on Daarukhana. Sanat and his entire team created an exceptional dining experience with great recommendations and willingness to respond to their diners’ needs (e.g. preferred spiciness levels). Daarukhana is truly a hidden treasure in the depths of Wan Chai. Their daring interpretations of classic Indian cuisine & luxe ambience immediately impress & convey that you are somewhere special. The best part is that it leaves you wanting more & you’ll definitely find me going back to try the Paneer Bhurji Quesadilla & Baingain Two Ways.
Daarukhana | Portion of G/F and Whole 1/F Tai Yip Building, 141 Thomson Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong | Tel: +852 2771 1112