Review of Dwaraka’s Indian Cuisine

3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
Phone number: (503) 230-1120

On a cold wintery night, a friend and I had a craving for some delicious Indian food. So after a quick search of nearby places that had positive reviews, we found Dwaraka’s Indian Cuisine. Located in the Hawthorne District of Southeast Portland, Dwaraka is a small quaint Indian restaurant that serves very good Indian food and offers a lunchtime buffet for around $10. However, since my friend and I didn’t go until the evening we were not able to try their buffet. Nonetheless, we ended up getting a decent amount of food (i.e. we had to take a bunch home).

Dwaraka isn’t necessarily the best looking restaurant as the walls are a jade green with slight signs of fading and the décor borders the line from between authentic to slightly outdated. Nonetheless, there were quite a few nice touches of matching authenticity that aligned with the restaurant. Various small statues and figurines decorated the restaurant and there were some very nice paintings and drawings on the wall. In addition, the tables and chairs were very nice with the tables having a glass top with various newspaper-like stylings under the glass.

On this particular visit, my friend and I ordered the following items:

  • Chicken 65 (as an appetizer)
  • Lamb Tikka Masala served Thali style (my entree)
  • Tandoori Chicken Tikka Kebab served a la carte (my friend’s entree) with rice and naan

As a quick note, I also ordered a Mango Lassi (a drink made from water, yogurt and spices), but it wasn’t anything too special; I could get the equivalent at quite a few different places. Also, for those who don’t know, thali is a generic term for an Indian meal made up of various dishes commonly served with one or two main dishes. Thali at Dwaraka is served with their vegetable curry of the day (I think it was a cauliflower curry), Dhal (a type of lentil soup), Sambar Rice, Plain Naan, Raita, and their dessert of the day (on this night was Gulab Janum, a fried doughnut-like flour ball served with a sugary syrup).

Of all of the dishes, the dish that stood out the most was the Chicken 65 because of how well executed it was. Chicken 65 is a dish where chicken is marinated in a mixture of spices (usually ginger, cayenne pepper and ground mustard powder) and vinegar or yogurt (depending on regional variation) before receiving a slight coating and being deep fried. Dwaraka takes the yogurt marinade approach and deep fries the chicken alongside some basil leaves. Their combination works perfectly as it was full of flavor and it was easy to tell that the chicken had been marinating for a decent amount of time. The spices were in perfect balance, and the yogurt coating provided the perfect contrast to the heat of the chicken. Plus, the marinating process made the chicken very tender and silk-like.

My order of Lamb Tikka Masala was also executed very well and was full of nice flavor. The level of spice and salt worked very well for the dish and their preparation of the lamb removed a lot of the somewhat stale flavors that sometimes has while maintaining the unique flavors of the lamb. Additionally, the lamb was soft and tender and was rarely chewy. If there was one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of, it was how relatively small the portion of Lamb Tikka Masala I got in comparison to the amount of Tandoori Chicken my friend received.

Speaking of the Tandoori Chicken, the chicken my friend received was also very solid. At Dwaraka getting a chicken Kebab is essentially getting boneless chicken, just as it is in many other Indian restaurants. Once again, the chicken was well prepared and was tender and moist and the seasoning was very good. The tandoori had the right level of heat, although the other flavors seemed to fall a slight bit on the wayside. Compared to the other dishes, the flavors didn’t seem to bloom as much but despite this one slight hiccup, it was still a very solid dish.

As with the entrées, the other components of the Thali were also very good. The cauliflower curry had decent bite mixed with an appropriate amount of chunkiness, the dhal was very balanced and the rice was well-prepared and reasonably seasoned. I appreciated the freshness of the naan served to us and the complementary chutneys (a parsley chutney, a tomato chutney, and an garlic/onion chutney) worked very well. Finally, the Gulab Janum was an great way to finish the meal. The dough ball had the right amount of airiness and the dough didn’t feel overly dense, and the syrup had just the right amount of sweetness to not overwhelm the palate and had the right consistency to not overly drench the dough.

Another positive is that the restaurant provides solid service and dishes come out in a timely manner. Our waitress was very friendly and took the care in explaining the menu to us and pointing out the dishes that Dwaraka does best (that’s how I got convinced to get the Chicken 65 and as you’ve read, it didn’t disappoint). Additionally, she made rounds around the restaurant at nice consistent intervals and made our dining experience very pleasant. Despite all of the kudos though, I wished the way the Thali was served was different. Something about being served a large round metal tray with all of the dishes served in smaller (although uniform) round metal dishes just doesn’t appeal to me in particular.

All in all, it was a very good meal at a very reasonable price. The total of our meal (excluding tax/tip) was just under $40 which is very solid for the amount of food we got at a restaurant of this quality. I definitely recommend this restaurant. Although the food itself is enough of a draw, the service, ambiance, and reasonable price point just adds to my positive review of this restaurant. I can say for myself that I will return for another meal (if not just for the Chicken 65).

Food Quality: 8/10
Ambiance/Décor: 2/3
Service: 3/3
Price Point: 2/2

Final Score: 8.25/10

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