Photos: Behind the Scenes at New York’s Dhamaka

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Eating Between the Lines

Photos: Behind the Scenes at New York’s Dhamaka

In Eating Between the Lines, Resy takes you behind the scenes of some of your favorite restaurants through the eyes of the people who make it all happen. Consider this photo essay a bonus director’s cut to the larger story.

In this edition, we went to the Lower East Side’s newly opened Indian restaurant, Dhamaka, from the same team behind the West Village’s Rahi and Long Island City’s Adda.

The menu is a reflection of the diversity of India’s rich regional cuisines, from Kolkata and Rajasthan to Mumbai and Sunderbans.

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As soon as you enter Dhamaka, located within Essex Market, the first thing that'll catch your eyes are the colorful artworks adorning the walls and the bar. Artist Sean Maze painted the mural at the bar, and designed the artwork for the menus.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

The metalwork art pieces in the main dining room were created by Chris Wynter, and the restaurant was designed by architecture firm Wid Chapman.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

The opening team behind Dhamaka, from left to right: front-of-house manager Tsepak "Tina" Dolker; beverage director Yessenia Alverez; chef and partner Chintan Pandya; chef de cuisine Eric Valdez; and owner Roni Mazumdar.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Chef Chintan Pandya showed us his custom blend of garam masala, which is featured prominently in the staff's favorite dish: Champaran Meat. "Garam masala is actually a blend of spices and what happens with garam masala is that there is no right or wrong recipe," explains Pandya. "The garam masala that his house will have will be different from mine; it will be different from yours. It's not like a structured thing that garam masala needs to have these nine things in these specific quantities."

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

In the kitchen, spices are freshly ground nearly every day.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Dhamaka is chef Chintan Pandya's third restaurant with restaurateur Roni Mazumdar, and he says it's been his most challenging. "Actually, I was very nervous for the opening," Pandya says. "Obviously, times are difficult and to open up a restaurant in this difficult time itself was a big challenge for us. So, I don't want to jinx it, but it went phenomenally smooth. It was a crazy night. The best thing was the reaction from the customers actually, because it's a very different kind of unconventional Indian restaurant, where we are trying to do food that's unknown to a lot of people. During the R&D process, we were trying to cook, eat, and understand the flavor profiles of these dishes for the first time. In a way, it was something we were doing out of our comfort zone. Of all the projects that we've done, this was the most challenging one."

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Putting the final touches on one of the restaurant's sleeper hits, the paplet fry, a fried fish dish chef Pandya used to eat often at small bars in Mumbai.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Dhamaka owner Roni Mazumdar says one thing he admires most about chef Pandya is his humility as a chef. Mazumdar says of Pandya: "He has the humility to know when the culture and the cuisine should shine. As a chef, it's not always about him proving to the world what he's capable of, which he has done plenty of times, but it's also honoring our past and our culture."

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

In the kitchen, the chefs start prepping the mashed potato patties for the ragda pattice.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

The ragda pattice features a potato patty topped with white peas and green chiles

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Chef de cuisine Eric Valdez first worked with chef Pandya at New York's Michelin-starred Junoon. He followed Pandya to help open Rahi in 2017, followed by Adda in 2018, and now, at Dhamaka. He credits the Internet for helping him do research and development for many of Dhamaka's dishes: "Google knows everything. It's like doing forensic research about the regions. We don't copy the recipes, but we watch videos on them if we can, so we have the core idea. I'm reading a lot of books chef gave me, too, but in most of the recipe books that you buy, it's all mainstream food. It's all butter chicken. We don't do that thing over here."

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

In the kitchen, the final touches are added to the murgh kofta.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

When you cut into the murgh kofta's minced chicken meat, you'll find a whole soft-cooked egg. The dish pairs well with the Gulaabo, a cocktail that features Tokyo Nights Gin, lemon, rosewater, dragon fruit syrup, and aquafaba.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Dhamaka's beverage director, Yessenia Alverez is responsible for the cocktail program at Dhamaka, as well as its sister restaurant, Rahi in the West Village. Before she arrived at Rahi, Alverez didn't have any experience in bartending but, after some encouragement from chef Pandya, she decided to study it. "He always talked about these spices, the cuisine, how Indian food has so many ingredients in it," she says. "Then, one day, there was this opportunity to be at the bar, and they let me go into the bar to perform. And after that, I felt like that was for me."

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Alverez designed all of the cocktails at Dhamaka to pair well with the food, but the MVP of pairings, she says, is the Paan E Bahar, made with gin and ginger and tangy paan leaves.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Front-of-house manager Tsepak "Tina" Dolker was born and raised in Tibet, and she credits her love of Indian cuisine to living in India for a few years before she moved to New York at the age of 13. For Dolker, hospitality has always been her passion. Before leading the service team at Dhamaka, she worked as a server, bartender, and assistant manager at Rahi. What she loves most about working at Dhamaka is that "you can be yourself." She says the best way to experience a meal at Dhamaka is to order at least one dish from every category on the menu, and she especially loves the Champaran meat, Lasooni prawns, and the goat neck biryani.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

A sign of the times: Tiny menu cards on the tables include a QR code to download the menu onto your phone. Artist Sean Maze did the artwork for the menus.

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Restaurateur Roni Mazumdar (left) and chef and partner Chintan Pandya. "This restaurant," says Pandya, "is more about the roots; our culture is so diverse and that's what we want to celebrate here."

Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

Eating Between the Lines

Photos: Behind the Scenes at New York’s Dhamaka

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