In a nutshell –
Address & other details: Pahalwan Dhaba is the second shop to the entrance of the Dargah of Sufi Saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. Best way to reach here is to park ur car at Qutub Minar parking & take an auto to ‘Qutub Sahab’s Dargah’. Alternately u can park ur car at Mehrauli Bus stand & just walk to the restaurant.
Meal for 2: Rs. 60 onwards
Cuisine type: Vegetarian & predominantly nonvegetarian
Short Description – In case u r in a Hurry:
I first heard of this place from Asif, the guy behind Delhi by foot – they organize individual & group heritage walks in Delhi. I had asked about a good Mughal place around Qutub Sahab’s Dargah & this was his ‘on spot’ suggestion ‘without a blink’. So we visited this place today after driving back from a 3 hour heritage walk in Tughlaqabad area.
Though it is winter in Delhi but a 3 hour walk (including climbing stairs) makes one hungry. So were we. As the waiter came, we asked for options & he rattled – korma, bheja, keema, kaleji, chaap…………. & some more such stuff & then he also said daal, subzi etc.
We were obviously on a strict nonvegetarian diet hence chose from the initial list. In some time we called him & ordered some more dishes. We saw that people in other tables were ordering one curry & eating many rotis with them. So, unused to such a situation in which 3 people are ordering 5 dishes, he was giving us bewildered looks. Post that when we called him for the third time, the serious guy in him gave up – he smiled & said ‘there is one more dish that we have, that u did not try today. Wanna try that?’.
The restaurant also sells nihari, paaya & nalli in the evenings. Will go to try that some day.
The Dining hall is pretty large & has the typical Jama Masjid area’s Mughal restaurant look – Simple furniture & tables very close to each other. At the entrance to the dining hall is the open kitchen where tandoori rotis r being churned out. Huge containers with different kinds of curries r also being kept here on constant slow fire.
The waiting staff r obviously not trained in the ‘modern way’. They behave like normal human beings – good behaviour is reciprocated with good behaviours, warmth & humility & bad / cold behaviour is reciprocated with cold behaviour. We were pretty happy on this front.
Food was obviously good – Not even one was bad or average. Some were just outstanding & surely better than what the Big Boys of Jama Masjid area serve.
Prices were so low that we were shocked when the bill came.
Detailed Description – In case u have the time to njoy reading:
We ate all the curries with freshly made Tandoori rotis made from maida. These were soft inside & crispy outside. I ended up eating a few bites just like that, immediately after they were served. I wud give this a 4.25/5
Our first set of 3 curries were bheja (brain curry), kaleji (liver) & korma.
I have had bheja so far only in Karim’s Delhi & Nizam Kolkata. I did not really find it outstanding & hence never tried that too many times. My friend & co diner has had the opportunity to have good bheja at Jamia & hence he insisted we order. This bheja curry was awesome – the Karim’s one is 2.5/5 if this is 4.25/5. The flavours of masala had intermingled with those of the bheja. The taste was excellent as well. Recommended.
The Kaleji was excellent again. Not hard not soft but just rightly done Kaleji, the overpowering flavour of spices & the overall taste leads to a rating of 4.5/5.
The Korma was good but was the weakest of all. The meat was soft but fibrous. The gravy was a bit thinner than expected. The korma of Old Jawahar hotel was spicier, hotter & thicker than this. I wud rate this a 3.5/5.
Our second set of curries were chaap & keema.
The chaap gravy was again very very good. The meat was again soft but fibrous. The fine flavours of spices were enjoyable to the extent that we finished off the gravy till the last drop. I wud give a 3.5/5 to the meat & 4.25/5 to the gravy, averaging to 3.9/5.
The keema was again good but not beyond good. Its gravy was relatively subtler / non intense than the others. The keema pieces were a bit bigger than usual – maybe that had led to the taste not being as intense as desired. I wud rate this 3/5.
At this point we decided to reorder the kaleji which was equally good as the first time.
As we were almost thinking of ending the meal, we overheard ‘paya’ in another table. So we asked about paya & were told they have a little bit left. When served, we realized it was cold. So we told them about it & immediately a new one was served. The paya was good, not over spicy, not hot, subtle, enjoyable. It is surely not as decked up as the paya at Karim’s. I wud give this a 3.75/5.
The best part of the 6 dishes we had was that each was very different than the rest.
Score for food at Pahalwan Dhaba adds up to 3.9/5.
I wud surely revisit & wud strongly suggest foodies in general & meat lovers in particular to not give this a miss. Pls note that most dishes r beef & chicken based.