Baba Ka Dhaba – Calgary, AB


Baba Ka Dhaba
3504 17 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 207 5552

Baba Ka Dhaba on Urbanspoon

As i discovered on my recent trip, there is power in low expectations. When you have no preconceived notions on how something will be, generally speaking, you end up pleasantly surprised.  With high expecations? Well, i have to admit, my most disappointing dining experiences over the past year have either been at highly regarded restaurants, or at new local eateries that had generated a lot of buzz. Only the best made an impression. Most were quite disappointing. This may not be completely fair, but for me, the higher the expectations, the less likely I am to like the place. Sad, but true. At Baba Ka Dhaba, there were no expectations at all.

Baba Ka Dhaba is a small hole in the wall East Indian eatery in Forest Lawn, on the north side of 17th ave SE. Even knowing where it is, it is quite easy to drive by and miss it. I did several times! Baba Ka Dhaba has fairly limited seating, with 3 tables, and likely seats for 12-16 people, depending on how friendly you get. The evening i was there, the majority of the orders were take out.

img_4527b

When you first walk in, there is nothing really prominent. It’s small. A bit shabby, and tiled in white. Tables are in varying degrees of disarray – we ended up bussing our own tables to get a place to sit. If you were measuring atmosphere on a scale from 1-10, it’d be a 0. That’s not a good thing.

There is a small cut out in the hastily erected plywood wall where someone takes orders. Above the cutout is the menu – what they serve is limited on each given day, an approach I have been a big fan of lately. I find the limited menu ensures better quality control. Beats trying to be all things to all people. However, be sure you are looking at the correct day – i was salivating over certain dishes that were available on a different day before i realized my mistake. Each given day has dishes from a variety of styles. Some curries, some dishes from the tandoor, some appetizers.

Service, from a objective persepctive, was actually fairly horrific. It took them 10 minutes to even notice we were at the window to take our order. One guy jumped the queue and placed his take out order ahead of us. And then it took them so long to get us our food, that the two gentleman we were sharing our table with, definite regulars and personally knew the owners, suggested we go back and ask about our food, because they were certain they had “forgotten our order”. If i had any expectations at all, or if my dining companion wasnt as easy going and affable, im sure i would’ve felt a lot more slighted. Instead, it was just another part of the experience.

We went for a diversity of dishes to get a good sampling. We each started with the samosas. Very large and fried to a golden brown, these were served warm. Overall, they were fantastic. The skins werent too thick, giving a nice crunchy bite, and the filling was loaded with flavour, yet not overly dry. Sauce and raita accompainiments were a nice touch. These are available every day.

img_4521b

An order of goat curry is eagerly anticipated, and fails to disappoint. My biggest complaint with goat curry is usually the over-use of boney cuts, resulting in very little substance. These were actually quite meaty, complete with tendon, which make for a nice contrast in textures. The gravy was a bit oily, but had an amazingly rich flavour. Not overpowered with cardamon, tumeric, or cumin as many other curries are. Well balanced, and long simmered, the sauce had great complexity. It showcased the perfectly crisp Naan well too, as there wasnt a drop left on the plate when we were done.

img_4516b

Lastly, we shared an order of Chicken Biryani. The meat was a bit bony, and lacked some substance, but the flavour was great, as they used dark meat, and the rice was fluffy and filling.

img_4519b

Our neighbours had the fish tandoori, and offered us a few bites to try. They probably felt bad that we had ordered before them, and they were going to finish their meal before our food came. It was tender, flavourful, and well spiced. An excellent fish dish.

Now, the CHR has cited Baba Ka Dhaba for several health code violations, some which are worse than others, so you’ve been warned. Check at your own peril.

In the grand scheme of things, I think this is a perfect illustration of the power of low expectations. Good service? No. Any atmosphere? One online blogger with a better command of the language than I likened it to “eating in a urinal” – better words I could not come up with! But the flavours and the price really can’t be beat. And I was expecting nothing, other than a meal for Friday night., and instead I got a feast for the taste buds, for two people, all for $20.

If i was to try a well regarded restaurant for the first time and experience the same things, I’m not sure i’d be as understanding. But when it comes to Baba Ka Dhaba, they get a pass. I would highly recommend you try the food, the flavours really are fantastic. If you feel a bit nervous, get take out. It might explain the loads of people i saw eating in their cars, who would occasionally come in and order more naan. I thought it was a hot date location, but im starting to think, maybe they’re onto something…

Baba Ka Dhaba on Urbanspoon

About these ads

12 thoughts on “Baba Ka Dhaba – Calgary, AB

  1. hmmmm I don’t know….except that it is on the way home from work….hmmm. Decisions, decisions! The naan sounds really good!!! Definitely can’t beat the price. But “eating in a urinal”???? yikes.

  2. You should definitely give it a try. The food was really good. And at that time of day (assuming your work is “working hours”, im guessing it hasnt been busy enough to have the accumulation of….stuff…yet :) ).

    Let me put it this way, I never felt uncomfortable there. It just is what it is, a hole in the wall.

    If you do try, let us know! Would love to hear your thoughts on it.

  3. Health code violations. Heck, you just ate at length in a country that does not have a health code.

    Nobody in the food industry wants too many demerits, or eat in a place with too many citations, but when you actually read some of the violations restos get cited for? That alone could fill a Blog on a daily base.

  4. Well, *I’m* game to try it…but I’d NEVER get any of my family or friends in there.

    Maybe if I order take-out and take it home and serve it…..(nyaah hah hah) they’ll never know… unless they get sick, of course – and then I’ll be in the mainstream restaurant dog house, again.

  5. HPeter,

    I agree 100%. I don’t have the health code hang ups that most people do, and many of those violations arent really relevant to the food being served, but i did want full disclosure. Last thing i want is someone trying to blame me for some case of eColi!

    I will mention though, i did get sick a couple times in Vietnam and Laos. As almattone says, varying degrees of intestinal risk!

    KC – you need new friends :) j/king – but take out sounds like it would be the order of the day, though the naan would definitely suffer.

  6. I’m with about a lack of ‘hang ups’. I don’t see a point in obviously eating something that will most certainly make you ill, or worse. But really, maybe it’s my experience from living/traveling in Central America, some of the best food can come from the most unappealing eyesore of an establishment.

    Thanks for not just sticking to the straight and narrow! Some of these joints never get mentioned, and like KC wrote, it isn’t always easy to get friends or family into certain places.

    • Yup – though sometimes, something that makes you ill is sooo good, it just might be worth it. I have to say, my Lao sushi experience – that wasn’t worth it!

  7. Baba Ka Dhaba – My husband and I ate there for the first time late last fall. Delicious! Wonderful service-great guys. They kept bringing us samples to taste while we waited for our order. Having eaten in so many ‘Hole-in-the-wall’ places in the world, we were not afraid – it’s an adventure! Highly recommend it.

  8. Y’know, this place was fined tens of thousands and was shut down by health inspectors over 30 times… you should probably look up the records on the health region website, and count yourself lucky you didn’t get ill!

  9. well, i was curious, so i did check the health region inspection site. hundreds of restaurants listed! even high-expectation, mucho-$ Caesar’s Steak House is in there and currently has more violations than Baba, three of which are critical while Baba has no critical items.

    dining experience, customer service, restaurant, high/low-expectations, …, perish all such usual notions when going to places like Baba Ka Dhaba. it’s not a matter of having or not having certain qualities—these just don’t apply because it’s an altogether different ritual of “eating out.” i actually thought some innocence (for lack of a better term) was lost when they started taking your food to your table.

    anyway, we’re long-time Baba Ka Dhaba patrons, since the early days when they did not even give you utensils (the ‘authentic way’ is to eat with your fingers). the lamb chops are awesome, goat biryani is yummiest, garlic naan is the best and actually has fresh garlic, and Baba is such a sweet guy.

  10. Worst food place in calgary.
    They cheat a lot. I recently ordered chicken biryani for take out. They gave plain saffron colored rice and cooked bland chicken pieces in it. No spice or even salt.
    When contacted, they said that it was a special kind of biryani with special spices!!!
    Obviously they had ran out of chicken biryani and hence were trying to sell us this saffron rice.
    Will never go again there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s