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Adding the authentic taste of Punjab to Pondicherry’s foodscape is the aromatic Dhiya’s Kitchen.

WHEN she moved to Pondicherry from Nasik six years ago, R Neha was quite happy with the city’s profusion of Continental and South Indian food. But she missed the flavours of the Punjabi food she was raised on. So the mother of a two-year-old decided to fill the gap herself, and opened Dhiya’s Kitchen last month (named after her toddler).

The rotis we order are soft and substantial, and taste even better when dipped in the dal makhani, which manages to be creamy without being overwhelmingly rich. However, the Afghan kebab, boasting a lovely burnished crust, leaves us wishing it was more succulent. The aloo jeera—roasted to a tender crisp and studded with cumin—is the clear favourite at our table.2

The food is neither greasy nor too spicy, which makes the restaurant a good stop for comfort food, when all the croissants, gelatos and coq au vin have got to you. “I try to make the dishes as close to how I make them at home,” says Neha, adding, “I’m particular that the flavours you experience here should be similar to the Punjabi food you’ll find in Delhi or Amritsar.”

Neha recommends the baingan bharta, kofta curry, saagwala chicken and the tikka masala as her bestsellers. While the new breakfast combos will include staples like poha and parathas with curd, the lunch combos come with choices of curries, including fish and prawn. “We plan to have a seafood counter where you can pick out the fish and order it to be cooked the way you like — gravy, deep-fried or in the tandoor.”
Mumbai’s favourite fast food, the vada pav, will also feature at the chaat counter, which will open this summer. The 30-seater restaurant, which is  sparsely furnished, sports  stark white walls papered with Neha and her husband’s favourite films stars. Well, you can always drool over George Clooney till the chicken tikka masala arrives.

On Kuilapalayam Road, close to Auroville, from 7 am to 10.30 pm. Meal for two at approximately Rs 400.

— Olympia Shilpa Gerald

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