Chintan Pandya, chef and co-owner of New York Newcomer Dhamaka, usually starts his day at the butcher, bringing his loot – in today’s case, goat neck, liver, kidneys and testes – to the Lower East Side restaurant. “[In the U.S.] it becomes a very new product when using the kidneys, liver and testes, ”he says. “In India, that’s an integral part of it. [Here,] a lot of people want to do it, but they’re afraid to do it. We are not afraid of anything, the fear of failure is not present in our universe.
The Indian restaurant prides itself on taking risks, even when they fail. “In fact, we fail so many times,” says Pandya. “We keep trying new things and we keep failing. But after failing several times, you succeed once. So that’s what we keep in mind, this failure is part of the process.
What started out as ‘failures’ evolved into the restaurant’s best dishes, like 16-layered goat neck biryani, aromatic goat testis and kidney gurda kapoora, murgh kofta – a glossy curry with a soft-boiled egg enclosed in a tender ball of minced chicken – and more. Pandya and her team also prioritize using as many animals as possible and as little waste as possible, such as in the restaurant’s dohl kleh, or the pork face salad, in which the pig’s head (often pier) is pressure cooked, grilled and added to a bowl of chopped onions and herbs. It’s dishes like these that have a lot, including Eater NY reviewer Ryan Sutton, calling Dhamaka one of the most exciting new restaurants in town.
Many dishes in Dhamaka are served in the container in which they were cooked. The pulao pressure cooker is made to order and served directly in the individual sized pressure cooker itself. A Champaran mutton dish involves marinating mutton in a small clay pot before adding herbs, a whole garlic bulb and cooking the entire container, which lands on your table. Serving meals in this way captures the spirit of Dhamaka. “These days, it’s hard to find something simple,” says Pandya. “I think it’s a very honest product. It’s done with a lot of heart, and I think that’s what turns people on.