The meaning of the word Dhamaka relates to a sudden explosion of something. In this case, it relates to an explosion of flavours that occurs in the mouths of those dining at Dhamaka Restaurant in Bristol. Having opened its doors at the end of November 2018, its main aim is to maintain the authenticity of the Indian cuisine it serves up to its customers. While it does this, it also looks to keep things casual as it welcomes diners and caters to their every need.
This was exactly the aim that Vinay Reddy successfully met, given his prior experience on the luxurious Queen mary2 cruise liner. His experience extends to when he worked as an executive chef at Bristol's Zaza Bazaar buffet restaurant in 2011.
It was here where he met his co-worker and sous chef at the time, Jyotirmoy Patra. This alliance led them to create the restaurant that is Dhamaka, partly thanks to the melding minds of Patra and Reddy. Reddy would envision Dhamaka's delightful dishes in his mind, and Patra would create them to his exact specification. If it wasn't good enough, his attitude would be to do it again, but better. Stern but very fair.
With this knowledge of the restaurant in mind, I decided to visit this restaurant to see if it lives up to the casual vibe that it promises.
Dhamaka Restaurant on Clare Street
Upon stepping inside, a friendly waiter guides me to my table and presents me with the menu. My curry-hungry eyes scour the menu, observing the list of Indian comfort food items available to consume. Of course, it is a cuisine where your stomach will eat anything, but having that sense of what you can actually eat is encouraged.
I request a pint of Rekorderlig Apple Cider to assist me in my adventure as I decide on my order. This is bought to my table shortly afterwards, and it nourishes me well as I pick and choose from the available items.
While I look through this menu, poppadoms arrive with a selection of condiments, including raita, onion salad, lime pickle, and mango chutney. The poppadoms themselves have the correct level of crisp, and a flavour jazzed up by the condiments that accompany the poppadoms. So far, Dhamaka is living up to its true 'sudden explosion' feeling.
I place my order while tucking into my poppadoms. I order the chicken tikka starter with a chicken jalfrezi to follow, accompanied with some garlic & coriander naan bread and pilau rice. With my order placed, I take a moment to observe how busy the restaurant is. It's bursting with life, from waiters moving to and from the kitchen collecting and serving orders to the chatter of hungry diners. It's as if the people of Bristol truly want to experience casual Indian street food dining, either for the first time or as regular customers.
The waiter brings my chicken tikka starter, and as he sets this down on the table, I stare at it in anticipation. The appearance looks just how it usually would if you were to purchase this at a street food stall in India itself.
As stated on the menu, it is two pieces of chicken cooked in a tandoor oven and then marinated in fenugreek, yoghurt and a spice blend. It is topped with hulk-green coriander and served with a side salad of red onion and shredded lettuce. The first bite of this chicken tikka immediately burst its flavours open on my palette, with the fenugreek and spice blend being detected easily. The tender texture of the chicken is at the expected level, and the juices are left over on the plate it is served on. Overall, the authenticity is certainly there.
The chicken tikka starter at Dhamaka Restaurant
I finish my starter, and the plate departs my table while I continue to refresh myself with the pint of cider. The long minutes pass, and my equivalent of an Indian street food banquet arrives at my table.
The chicken jalfrezi is served in a traditional Balti serving dish, and the steam coming from it indicates that it's fresh from the tandoor oven. The garlic & coriander naan bread is presented in a curved-rectangular bowl, and the pilau rice is served in a round blue and white bowl.
The dish itself is no short of the heat that it packs. The spices of the Jalfrezi punch through my palette as if a fire of flavours is erupting in my mouth. Once again, the chicken in this dish is tender and easy to chew through before it travels down to my digestive system. The flavours from the sauce are so intense they transport me again to India's street food markets.
The Indian feast, including my chicken jalfrezi, garlic naan and pilau rice
The garlic and coriander naan bread is soft both to the physical touch and in terms of texture. There is a good balance in the two main components of this naan bread, and the real explosion of flavours is found when it is dipped in the Jalfrezi sauce. As well as the bread being soft, the pilau rice is also soft in texture, proving that it is being made and served how it should. Another example of the authenticity that Dhamaka provides.
I enjoy everything in front of me for some time until I cannot consume any more. I am then transported back from the Indian street food markets back to reality, where my plates and bowls are removed from my table. I thank him for the indulging Indian banquet and inform him that I await my bill for such an authentic dining experience.
The bill arrives with two mini mint chocolates on the house. You can't go wrong with a free mini dessert like this, especially if it is very light and doesn't come at a cost. I settle up and thank the generous front-of-house staff for supporting me with my journey through India's street food markets.
This mind-filling experience of wandering through the street food markets of India is something to consider undergoing yourself. This is especially true if you live in Bristol or if you are visiting Bristol on a foodie adventure hoping to broaden your mind. Any diner visiting Bristol and wanting to experience a proper explosion of flavours should consider going to Dhamaka.
Dhamaka, Clare Street, Bristol BS1 1XH.
Starters - £4.75-£6.50.
Mains - £10.25-£14.50.
All sides, including Naan Bread and Rice - £2.25-£6.00.
Desserts - £4.50.
Weekend lunch meal deals are curry & rice/naan bread for £12.99, and 3 small plates for £12.00.
Cocktails - £8.25, or 2 for £12 every day until 7pm.
Beers & ciders - £2.75-£5.50
Soft drinks - £2.50-£4.25
Spirits - £3.75-£5.50
Wines - £5.30 (175ml glass)-£29.00 (bottle)