Indian Coffee Shop, Dar: nostalgic chicken biryani

Jumping off a crowded daladala marginally avoiding head banging the guy trying to push his way in , swaying to avoid colliding with the person in front, politely declining the street vendor and controlling the urge to be aggressive with the boda boda driver that almost ran over my foot. Hungry and thirsty, I found myself hustling in the hot and busy streets of Dar. It’s been a while since I had to live such a hectic life style.

Luckily, I’m the type that looks for pleasure in every opportune moment. My favorite way to escape my mundane lifestyle is through my love of gastronomic adventure. Yeah, I really  love food, great food! When I’m not having my favorite meal in my favorite kitchen, I’m enjoying the discovery of new tastes and the places that bring them to life. Nah, I am not a comfort eater nor am I a foodie (probably something in between – comfoodie?). I love food  but I don’t over eat and I most often eat when I’m hungry.

I have now moved to Dar for a while, this city has really transformed since I last lived here; both in the number of food options and infrastructure presenting me with a great opportunity to pursue my love intrest. I wonder if I will be able to keep up with the numerous cuisines in the market but I will try to keep to par.

Let’s go back to where I begun- I found myself hungry and thirsty and naturally my senses were keen on the wonderful aroma as I walked by the restaurant kitchens- that’s how I discovered, ‘The Indian Coffee Shop’ at the underground floor of Haadi towers. I have been into Indian cuisine for the past few months, my favorite hang-out in Moshi has been ten-to-ten for their baingan bharta and Milan for their cheese naan with masala chips.

The environment and the menu

When I walked in, the place evoked bouts of nostalgia; images of Indian owned Baqalas and my Keralan neighbour’s kitchen slowly flashed by and I could almost smell the spices. The shop sits 16 people at a time, it’s not the tidiest of places but once you get over the oil stains on the walls and the over simplicity of the space you will enjoy a pleasant taste of Indian cuisine.

The menu has over 10 items  starting from breakfast to lunch and is priced between1000 and 7500 Tshs; with the lunches priced between 5500 and 7500 Tshs. As much as I was attracted to the dosa, puttu and appam plates, I ordered the chicken biryani; the onions were well fried, the chicken well seasoned without overwhelming spices and the rice was well cooked (not soggy or rubbery) with a well balanced and complementing amount of raisins and cashew nuts accompanied with a home-made mango pickle. The portion size is fit for two people with average appetite for food. I shared my plate with my sister but a solo female guest on the next table had only half the meal and returned the remaining to the kitchen, on the other hand a male guest cleared his plate to the last grain.

The service – commendable customer care

The shop has two assistants (both natives) a chef and the manager. Even though both the chef and manager don’t speak English well and have limited Swahili vocabulary, language is not a barrier to the service they offer. This time around there were 4 guests at the shop, the two of us, a white woman and an Indian man. Despite the racial mix we were well attended, the manager checked up on us every now and then to see if we needed anything and was prompt at our table when we raised our hand for attention. This was a comforting experience because it was unlike the experience I have had in many restaurants around Tanzania in whose staff seem confused on ‘whom to service and how’ especially when we have foreigners in the scene. It made the meal that more special.

My verdict

It was like going to my neighbor’s house for lunch, I got the utmost attention as a guest and enjoyed good food at the same time. I left feeling satisfied physically and mentally with my mind busy planning on what I would order the next time I visit, I’m probably going to try the fish curry:-)
The shop isn’t quite clean but for the delightful food and the commendable service, I give them a clean 3/5.

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