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Considering there is a sizable Parsi population in Pune, I find it amazing that there is only one restaurant patron who will loyally visit for the bhonu fix of Dorabjee restaurant. This humble restaurant parked in the busy Camp area in Pune is the one place people flock to with great conviction that it is the only restaurant that will give them an authentic Parsi meal.
They aren't wrong. A family that has been in business for generations is now helmed by the fourth generation, friendly, affable Darius Dorabjee. What started as a tea stall in 1878 is today's foremost authority on Parsi food. Not to be confused with the many Irani cafes in the city serving chai and bun maska with a few egg preparations or even Britannia in Mumbai that serves a mix of Parsi and Irani dishes which are terribly overpriced. Dorabjee’s menu is strictly Parsi food and has no intention of adding, expanding or tweaking the menu. The restaurant has a charm of its own. No decor or old Parsi portraits hang on the walls but it is simple, functional and spotlessly clean. You walk in and instantly feel comfortable listening to patrons chat over their meal or waiting for their parcel orders while they chat with the staff. The real priceless gems are the two old original menus hanging on the wall from 1955 and 1975. Both were a gift from an old customer who found them while cleaning out his drawers.
The USP at this 137 year old restaurant is that everything prepared here is cooked on a charcoal as it enhances the flavour of the food. It's actually quite fascinating if you think about it because Dorabjee's not only caters for the restaurant but Darius and his team are the most sought after (Parsi) caterers in the city and all the food at those functions is cooked on charcoal as well.
Despite a battalion of cooks and helpers in the kitchen, Darius is insistent on cooking himself. While the army of cooks can chop, cut, clean and prepare, it is only Darius that adds the masalas and measures the quantity because he doesn't trust anyone else to get it right. It might sound strange, but with family recipes that have been passed down from generations, this makes complete sense.
The menu features dishes like sali boti with a generous portion of sali, patra ni macchi, mutton kheema, palao daal and even the very important raspberry soda without which any Parsi meal is incomplete. The food is simple, what you would possiblly get at any Parsi home, but delicious and worth every bite. Tales of the Dorabjee's fame have travelled wide making it a popular choice for food shows, journalists and the likes. People come here whenever they visit the city, for a chance to taste the famed Dorabjee and Son's Parsi food. With such recognition you would expect them to expand to another outlet, revamp the menu or even add some crowd pleasers like the token Chinese dishes. Ask Darius about this and he flat-out refuses. I can't help but admire his dedication towards his food and not get swayed by his own popularity.
The menu, the people, Darius himself (he’s always smiling and chatting with customers, even if he doesn't know them!) and the restaurant space all adds to the charm and experience of dining here.
Photo Credit: Roxanne Bamboat
Follow her @The Tiny Taster