What sets Mohalla apart from its competitors in Dubai’s Indian food scene is the team’s desire to go beyond the usual suspects and bring in dishes from around the country’s 29 states.
Head chef Adwait Anantwar is the Tresind-trained man in charge of making it happen.
He says: “I wanted to make a menu that people have never seen in Dubai. I wanted to bring the sub-regional Indian cuisine and the street food which has not been explored much.”
Anantwar has spent much of his time researching different dishes from around his homeland, and finding a way to bring them to a new audience without affecting what makes them great in the first place.
He explains: “The concept here is sticking to the roots. Not going into too much modern stuff, I’m not going to do anything fusion. It’s traditional food with a traditional taste, but with a less amount of fat and we’ll tone down the spice a bit.”
While you can still find the likes of butter chicken on the menu, as it is a common street food in India, the idea behind Mohalla is getting people out of their comfort zone, something Anantwar isn’t too concerned about.
“People are open to trying new things,” he says. “It’s not like we are in a small town in India where people don’t want to try something else, it’s a place where people want to explore.”
With almost 80 dishes on the menu, including everything from small, light bites to larger main courses and desserts, Anantwar has selected a team able to cope with the demand and who are no strangers to the cuisine.
He says: “The whole kitchen team I have gotten directly from India - they’ve never worked in Dubai before. The reason why I did that is because there are a lot of restaurants here which are doing fusion and all the chefs who are working here are all a jumble of someone who has worked here and there. I didn’t want that to happen with Mohalla so we have hired directly from India. I’ve got chefs who have worked 20 plus years in the industry, they’ve worked in the best restaurants in India, so the food is going to be amazing for sure.”
Key to making that happen, says Anantwar, is fresh ingredients. “Everything I’m supplying is fresh. I have lamb from New Zealand, fish from Europe, prawns from the Philippines. If you don’t have fresh ingredients then the food is not going to be amazing, even if you cook it in the best possible way.
“We have the best suppliers like Fresh Express and Chef Middle East."
While Anantwar naturally believes the food to be excellent, he isn’t chasing awards, saying that “my priority is to feed good food to people and if things happen according to the plan and if people like then whatever has to happen will happen".
What the team at Mohalla want to happen is potential international expansion. Mahendra admits that as Atelier House is from the United States, a Mohalla in New York could be the next step.
HEAD CHEF:Adwait Anantwar was previously at Tresind.