It was with a deep sense of dislocation, then, that I was ferried through the searing and deserted streets of Dubai and deposited in the empty lot outside Keva. Slight dementia has a nasty habit of cranking up a stuck jukebox in my head and the journey across the melting neighbourhoods had been soundtracked by an endless loop of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s stressed-out 60s classic ‘Summer In The City’.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, my in-cranium sound system took a more melancholy tack as I opened the door to the restaurant: the mournful ska strains of ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials accompanied the dispiriting sight of a dark, empty room populated by a man shifting a table and a doleful-looking waiter.
The first encouraging sign that things were going to take a sudden turn for the better was the manageable size of the menu. The last thing anyone needs at lunchtime is a tome to digest, and the single page of judiciously selected Punjabi gems took a lot of the stress from ordering right away.
Even the previously downbeat member of staff soon brightened. His heartfelt sales pitch for practically every item on the menu meant that we were primed for a revelatory meal that more than lived up to his righteous billing.
Opting not to stand on ceremony, my dining partner and I bypassed the meagre band of starters to move swiftly on to the main attractions, thinking that a four-dish combo – two veg, two meat – would be more than enough to sate our previously unremarkable appetites. As it turned out, we were wrong – the heavenly manna being forked out of their golden cauldrons spurred us both to feats of curry consumption alien to a midweek lunch appointment.
The two meat options were pretty much flawless. A dish of Patiala mutton was as propitious as the princely Punjabi city it was named after. The meat – in a thick coriander and ginger-dominated gravy that was almost chutney-like in its sweetness – was soft and yielding as a feather-laden trampoline.
Likewise a chicken kadai emerged fresh, tender and delicately balanced from its karahi cooking pot, accompanied with slow cooked peppers and onions that helped to add an extra twist of piquancy to the dish.
A good dal makhani, bursting with rich buttery flavours, is never a bad addition to any line up and this was a good dal makhani. A more than passable Amritsari cholle was let down slightly by some undercooked chickpeas, but when curry is this good the last thing you are going to worry about is a little extra mastication.
The bill (for two)
1 x San Pellegrino Dhs12
1 x Amritsari Cholle Dhs35
1 x Keva dal Dhs35
1 x Patiala mutton Dhs60
1 x Kadhai chicken Dhs48
1 x Mixed Indian breads Dhs18