The place advertises itself as offering Bengali, Indian and Pakistani food. The air in the restaurant was pretty cold. The waiter must have realized he hadn't prepared the space properly for customers (I was the first one in the place just before 6pm) and went over to the thermostat presumably to turn it up without having to be asked. He was very pleasant and welcoming, interested in chatting but not at all intrusive. The place looks very clean and well put together, though a bit bright with lots of overhead flourescent lighting.
The menu has some interesting and unfamiliar items on it and is an amusing mashup of South Asian and Americana. Fries, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, a Thai dish, and some standards that will be immediately familiar to experienced patrons of Indian restraurants share space on the menu. The prices are surprisingly low. At somewhere between $4 and $5 my entree was in the upper-mid range of items on the menu.
The basmati rice was overcooked and looked excessively bleached out, seemed like cheap rice. The dal's subtle blend of flavors, fresh garlic, onions, herbs and lentils, was stellar. Likewise, the banana flower, a house specialty entree, was excellently and richly flavored, a little on the salty side like the roti, but otherwise very skillfully handled. I was happy to encounter a couple unknown dishes on the menu and enjoyed the artichoke-like texture of the banana flower.
It seemed as cold by the time I finished my meal as it had been when I first walked in. My food cooled far too fast in this environment and didn't taste nearly as good cold as it had warm.
Quantities of food served were very appropriate and I ate well without getting overly full for under $11 before the tip. Having lately spent over twice that much at numerous restaurants of all types where the food is handled less than half as skillfully as it is at Cafe Dakha, I consider this restaurant a real find. It's been open about 6 months and I infer it still lacks a solid customer base since the waiter felt the need to repeatedly encourage me to return and tell all my friends about the place. Overall the Cafe is a very nice surprise.
The place is cold again: People at other tables are huddled under their shawls and in their coats and the waiter asks me if it feels chilly to me shortly after I arrive, though I happen to find it comfortable this time. The waiter is as upbeat and friendly as ever. I try another house specialty, labra. This dish is pretty bland, but I enjoy that it has pumpkin and/or some other squash in it, interesting and uncommon touch. The cook comes out to chat, is as friendly and sincere as the waiter, and expresses a clearly genuine interest in finding out what I liked and didn't like about the food and how it could be improved. Uncommonly great service for a restaurant in this price range. If they ever fix the temperature and do a little decorating, Cafe Dhaka could become a top local pick.