A funky new Dharmendra-themed restaurant in New Delhi scores high on decor, medium on food and low on service, says Ritika Bhatia.
Garam Dharam -- Dhaaba te Theka, the new restaurant started by fanboys Micky Mehta and Umang Tiwari, is lit up like a flashy diamond in Connaught Place's outer ring.
As soon as we step in, we become instant fans of the funky decor which has taken dated Indian kitsch and somehow turned it around.
The Horn Ok Please truck installations, pop graffiti printed chairs and teapot and bucket lamps pepper the wooden interiors and stucco warehouse-style walls.
The restaurant is decorated with iconic movie posters of the actor including Chupke Chupke, Dharam Veer and Sholay.
We proceed to our table, which has fliers with Dharmendra anecdotes, trivia and popular dialogues.
A life-sized graffiti portrait of a young and strapping Dharam Paaji, above a Royal Enfield with a side-car, invokes wistful nostalgia -- and framed photographs of Dharmendra and Hema Malini below a hand-painted "Dream Girl", winning smiles.
The place is quite full for a Tuesday evening, and has a cheery energy.
The menu itself is pretty straightforward: hardcore, dhaba-style fare, with everything that would make a desi meat-eater excited: kebabs, curries, butter chicken, along with some vegetarian options.
These are paired with an entertaining list of drinks, with the most innovative of them the Riskey Chuski (with choice of white rum, vodka and gin) in measures of tanha (single), yaaron de naal (pack of six) and yaaron di mehfil (pack of 12).
The brightly designed menu is full of tiffins and thalis, an extensive tandoori section, street favourites (that are currently unavailable), and Dharam Ji's Specials -- that are just clever puns and could have done with some more descriptors.
Sample: Mai Balwan Family Naan, Phool aur Pathhar ke Kebab, Amritsari Pindi Sholey (chhole) and so on.
Later on in the evening, this would actually lead to a seriously filmy (and dhaba) type situation, when a group of formerly merry men would pull up a waiter by the scruff of his neck for serving them a non-vegetarian Dharam Ji's Special on "auspicious no-meat Tuesday".
We go for the Anokha Milan Seekh, served with green chutney and onions, and proceed to attack it with knife and fork.
The chicken and mutton skewers aren't as soft as their Mughlai version, and definitely had more "masala" Punjabi flavours, but both are equally juicy and tasty.
The Dahi ke Kebab glisten with ghee and are fairly well-cooked, but on the blander side.
Moving on to the main course, we order the Martabani Dal Makhani and the Balti Meat, with soft and pillowy butter naans.
The former is standard creamy fare, inducing fleeting levels of satisfaction, but the meat turns out to be disappointing.
The mutton is chewy and tastes like it was dipped in oily tomato puree instead of having been marinated in spices.
The portions are average sized and decently priced (Rs 1,500 for a meal for two, without drinks).
There is a DJ on the ground floor, but the playlist could have been lifted from the laptop of any 90s kid, or even a Punjabi shaadi for that matter -- with Bollywood numbers to Indipop tracks,
Dharmendra hits along with Coke Studio ghazals, for some strange reason.
The fun music and cute menu aside, our major grouse with the place is its dhaba-type service -- which took excruciatingly long for everything, from placing the orders to getting the bill.
We would have preferred some recommendations from the extensive menu, but that seemed to be a high expectation when just getting a bowl of sirke wala pyaaz takes 15 minutes.
With Aaja Nachle on full blast now, and the whole Punjabi 80s film charade starting to wear down, we decide to skip dessert and call it a (very filmy) day.