Here's An Indian Restaurant That Serves The Classics But Only More Instagram-Friendly
There’s one thing you know when you're an Indian girl who has grown up in Dubai. You can differentiate a good Indian restaurant from a bad one. For the simple reason that you eat this kind of food day in, day out, so you know what it's supposed to taste like and look like. At some restaurants the curries might look a little different, but hey if you choose to go there without a shade card in hand, you'll appreciate them as long as they taste right.
While Indian food varies in different regions of the country, the one thing that’s pretty standard is that most of the classics of each state are pretty blah-looking. They don’t really classify as photo-friendly food. And I am pretty sure of my analysis when chef Pradeep Khullar of Jodhpur says, "People don't want to Snapchat butter chicken. It is too boring".
Therefore what he and his team give you here are your fave childhood memories (think back to all those dishes mum or nan used to make) but with a modern spin (courtesy global ingredients) and results that please the eyes and palate.
Kickstarting our meal...
A rectangular piece of jeera khari (India's puff pastry biscuit flavoured with cumin) is served with herb yoghurt. Anyone who has grown up in an Indian household knows this biscuit is as important to masala chai as scones are to afternoon tea. Here, it was our welcome dish and doubled up as a 'chip and dip' to pick on right before our real meal.
Indian street-side savoury snacks normally known as chaat generally get thumbs up when they leave a burst of flavours in your mouth. When you're told a macaron (served on a little bicycle) will do the same, you do have your doubts. We did! We dropped the entire piece in our mouth and the outcome was incredible - all flavours were captured in that tiny piece. It was tangy, sweet, chewy and tasty.
This was followed by our first starter. We tried the beef short rib with aam papad glaze - think crispy on the outside and delectable on the inside. It couldn't be any other way given it had been braised for eight hours.
The veggie options were a desi pesto kebab with parmesan chips and a laban and ricotta kebab with smoked rose petals.
Made with raisins, basil, coriander and cream cheese, the pesto kebab was plated pretty and had a certain sharpness of herbs to its taste.
The latter was a show stealer - it was a creamy yet light cold kebab (something that's usually unheard of in Indian cuisine). The most unusual detail about it was the change in temperature with each bite. The first can be described as room temperature and by the time you make your way to the core, it is practically chilled.
We couldn't move on to the mains...
Definitely not until we got a picture of the mango, cranberry and kaffir lime sorbet served on a stick as a palate cleanser. The sticks were placed in, what we could safely call every Indian kitchen’s star, a pressure cooker. To point out how well chef Khullar nailed this form of presentation...let's just tell you this cooking utensil is as important to an Indian kitchen as is Nutribullet to a health fanatic.
We had massive (almost fist-sized) succulent prawns in a Southeast Indian style sauce made with coconut milk and topped with a crispy Parmesan poppadom. Then came the 'faux black dal' which had all the spices and cooking techniques (read: simmered overnight) of a typical black lentil dish, but the pulse used here was green mong dal instead. The result: it was creamy but much easier to digest. The ruling dish however was the cottage cheese koftas that were not drenched in gravy. Instead, the tomatoes and fenugreek sauce was poured around the koftas at our table. Enjoying them crispy with as much sauce as we liked was a welcome change.
The finale to this indulgent meal was a flattened cheese ball (ras malai) drowning in saffron milk, topped with milk foam and pistachio. What we got was an enjoyable sweetness and occasional crunch. The last act was the jalebi tree. The deep fried, soaked-in-sugar-syrup dessert is usually served as large spirals, but here they were miniature ones that hung from branches. It came with a side of not-too-sweet Mascarpone rabri which balanced the overall taste. It was a wonderful marriage of two textures - crisp and creamy.
Named after the Indian city Jodhpur (aka Blue City), the restaurant takes its interior inspiration from the same. Just as Jodhpur's main old city area is famous for its blue-walled houses and historical buildings, the fine dining spot incorporates those colours in its walls, pillars and upholstery. The two-storey restaurant's standout feature was the spiral staircase which led us to the lower ground level for our meal. The gold designs on the columns lend a sense of opulence to the place, while large windows all around the restaurant allow for enough natural light (during the day, obvs).
What you do need to wait for is better weather to enjoy the outdoor seating where you're on a sort of deck surrounded by water and fountains on either side.
Like I said, it's not hard to differentiate a good Indian meal from a bad one and this one was on point, with impressive service adding to the experience.
Word of advice: along with your camera (which is essential because there will be plenty opportunities to photograph beautiful stuff on your plate), please ensure you head there with drawstring pants. You will thank me for having those on when you're on a full stomach.