Punjabi Dhaba Indian Eatery, a new restaurant that features authentic Punjabi dishes, opened at 2521 Durant Ave. March 1.
Punjabi Dhaba’s menu features a variety of dishes that change every day, differentiating it from other local Indian restaurants, according to owner Vikram Aggarwal. He added that Punjabi Dhaba has an open kitchen so customers can see how the food is made and that cooks add extra Punjabi spices to maintain the authenticity of the food.
Customers “mostly like the Punjabi spices and how the food tastes,” Aggarwal said. “We put a lot of the spices that some other restaurants don’t. We use the good spices.”
Aggarwal said he opened Punjabi Dhaba on Berkeley’s Southside in order to attract the business of students and teachers interested in Indian food, as the diverse group of customers would help his business. He added that he had always wanted to open an Indian restaurant by campus, as he feels there is a large Indian community with few Indian restaurants around.
Punjabi Dhaba offers an array of Indian dishes, such as vegetable samosa and various masala entrees that come with rice and naan bread of many different flavors. The most popular dish is the chicken tikka masala and the vegetable masala, according to Aggarwal.
“While authentic Indian food will always be hard to find anywhere outside of India, few restaurants have the ability to maintain a ‘wow’ factor,” said customer Jai Kalra in an email. “I’m very surprised and happy to finally find good Indian food, located within very close proximity of the campus.”
The naan bread is prepared in the charcoal clay oven right at the time of the order, according to Kalra. He added that he appreciates the warm welcome Aggarwal and his wife provide to guests of their restaurant.
Despite shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Aggarwal said his restaurant has only seen mild impacts on business, and the restaurant is still open for pickup orders. He added that in the two weeks before closing March 15, the restaurant had seen “really good” business.
When the spread of coronavirus subsides and students return to campus, Aggarwal said he plans to cater even more to the hectic schedules of students and teachers. He wants to introduce weekly specials and more to-go foods, including burritos, chicken kabob rolls, veggie kabob rolls and Indian street food.
“We cook a lot of authentic Indian food. So many other Indian restaurants are an American fusion style,” Aggarwal said. “We have an Indian community who appreciates the authenticity of the Indian food here. That makes me happy.”