-By Marryam H Reshii
The good news is that if you're entertaining guests from overseas, Jamavar is a great place to take them to. The gold and brown colour scheme is almost royal and the crystal chandeliers overhead cast a subdued glow around the 58 seater. I have one observation: Diya, the Indian restaurant in Leela Gurgaon doesn't look as classic as Jamavar does, but the menu at Diya was created by the chef himself, based on the strengths of his staff, and hence, the food is way better than it is in Jamavar, where the most popular items in all the Jamavars across the country have been put on the menu. The good news is that thereâ€™s food from all over the country: Lucknow, Punjab, the west coast and Tamil Nadu. So for westerners on a flying visit to India, one meal can encompass several regions. The downside is that inevitably some dishes are great while others need reworking. The two best dishes of our dinner (Jamavar only opens in the evenings) were Allepey meen curry (Rs 1,200) and ghosht ki nihari(Rs 1,300). This was a promising sign: Allepey meen curry is from Kerala, yet it was cooked just as it would have been in Kerala, with the trademark coconut milk gravy and hint of sour mango. Good as that was, its thunder was stolen by the nihari, which had been prepared by a master: a complete orchestra of spices in which no single one presided, but all existed in harmony, in a gravy that had been expertly thickened by bone marrow. Also good was the chicken Chettinad (Rs 1,200) that was made in the home style as opposed to restaurant style, which tends to be pumped with far more spice, particularly garam masala, than is required. It is what you'd get if you visited the house of a Chettiyar. The one starter that I ordered: machhiâ€˜Koliwada (Rs 1,200) turned out to be diametrically opposite to what was described on the menu (cubes of sole marinated with green chutney, yoghurt, curry leaves and coconut). First of all, no self-respecting member of the Koli (fisher) community on the west coast would use yoghurt and coconut in combination, and second, what we were presented with was a besan batter with ajwain marination, indistinguishable from Amritsari machhi! Thatâ€™s the risk you run when you have menus made by corporate offices: the chef of a restaurant would know his customersâ€™ tastes as well as the talent in the kitchen. I ordered murgh biryani sofiyani (Rs 1,200) expecting the signature whisper of saunf in a pale coloured biryani, but instead was given something that was indistinguishable from dum ki biryani in looks as well as taste! The biggest plus point is the staff. Our order was quite complicated: we wanted everything served individually by course with the appropriate accompaniment. Thus, nihari had to be served with a roti and meen curry with steamed rice. It appeared exactly as we had ordered, to the credit of the waiters. Service is western style: you are served courteously, yet you are given your space. It's a rarity in our city, I tell you! It's a nuisance to reserve a table. You are either too early (before 3 pm) or too late (after 3 pm). If there's a secret, I haven't cracked it yet.
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