Jamun (Delhi, Jan 2020)

We ate at Jamun—located in the Lodhi Colony market—the night after our dinner at Eat Pham. We met a different set of friends here. I’d suggested Cafe Lota but one member of the party nixed it on the grounds of the absence of alcohol and suggested we try Jamun, which had apparently been recommended highly to her. Being of a generally agreeable disposition, I put aside my misgivings—she is the notorious fantasist I’ve had cause to mention before—and we showed up for what in Delhi is a very early dinner reservation, at 7.30. The restaurant was fairly empty but not quiet for long. This because another member of the party—in from New Jersey—can normally be heard from two states away and that when she is not excited. On this occasion she was highly excited even before she got to the restaurant (was there alcohol involved? I don’t like to speculate). With ear plugs fastened we got down to perusing the menu.

Oh, I should say perhaps that Jamun opened at the end of 2017. No one had mentioned it to me as a new place worth going to on my previous trip in December 2018 but it takes my friends a long time to get around to new places—Delhi traffic also makes it very hard to try new places if they aren’t located close to you. At any rate, Jamun is the latest venture from an outfit behind a few other trendy operations. Jamun is a bit of a departure from those in that their proffer is a pan-Indian regional menu. In this it is in fact quite similar to Cafe Lota, though with a couple of significant, related differences. The first is that where Lota often features updated versions of traditional dishes—whether in plating or juxtaposition of elements—Jamun emphasizes traditional preparations. And the presentation of the food is traditional as well, with everything served family-style.

I’m not sure if there is another level but the attractive dining room we were in is on the compact side. The menu, however, is large. From what I can tell from looking at reviews from closer to the restaurant’s opening, the menu has either changed a fair bit since then or changes regularly. There are references in early reviews to an apparently divisive Assamese pork curry but on our visit neither it nor any other Northeastern dishes were on the menu. So pan-Indian here is not truly pan-Indian: the south and the northwest are over-represented. Each dish, by the way, has its region of origin indicated on the menu alongside whimsical narratives that verge on the ridiculous and often tip over into it. After some negotiation and a great deal of yelling (from one end of the table) we agreed on an order.

From the appetizers end of things we got the following:

  • Gahat dal ki tikki: Four large tikkis/croquettes of spiced horse gram served with bhang chutney. The tikkis were nice but it was the chutney I really liked. This was billed as a dish from Uttarkhand.
  • Mochar chop: Almost identical in presentation—not the more usual cylindrical Bengali chop shape—this too was a case where the main event was outshined by the accompanying condiment, in this case an excellent tomato kashundi.
  • Chicken sukka: A Mangalorean prep and very good, I thought. As you’ll see in the slideshow, this doesn’t look like anything, which is how you know it’s traditionally presented.
  • Malabar tenderloin pepper fry: Also not a looker, this Kerala dish of stir-fried tenderloin (buffalo, presumably) was very good indeed.

On to the main courses:

  • Khati-mithi kadhi with crisp kale: This is a fusiony take on kadhi, somewhere between the Gujarati and the Punjabi in both texture and flavour. It was also one of the best kadhis I’ve had in a long time. The crisp kale it was topped with seemed superfluous to me. It was served with samosa-like fritters but the owner of the loud voice didn’t let anyone else eat any of them.
  • Ker-sangri kofte: A Rajasthani dish featuring basically paneer koftas with a center made of mashed ker sangri (ker is a type of berry, sangri a type of bean). All floating in a silky tomato sauce. I thought it was just okay but I think most of the others liked it a lot more.
  • Andhra chicken roast with Malabar paratha: The chicken was very good indeed as was the paratha.
  • Coorgi pork: This, however, didn’t quite do it for me. It may have been prepared just as it should be but the result was too fatty and too indistinct in flavour.

We ate all this with rice, butter naan and Malabar parathas; plus a mixed raita on the side (very good too).

Desserts:

  • Gadbad ice cream: Apparently a Mangalore thing, basically a mixed-fruit sundae. I did not partake but them that did seemed to like it.
  • Jalebi with rabri: This was from the selection of winter specials; I thought it was just about okay.
  • Gulab jamun: Coming from the US where gulab jamun invariably has an unfortunate texture, I can never pass up gulab jamuns in Delhi and these were very good.
  • Passteis de nata with cinnamon ice cream: The Goan-Portuguese egg tart was just okay (the crust was too heavy) but the cinnamon ice cream was very nice.

For a look at the (dark) restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and what we made of the meal as a whole.

Service was present and friendly without being overbearing. Price? All of this plus some drinks and included service charge came to Rs, 9887 or roughly $140. We were six people so just short of $24/head, which is not very cheap in Delhi. Then again this was enough food for eight so the more accurate per head cost would be quite a bit lower.

The food, as you will have sensed from the above, I thought was a bit of a mixed bag. Some things I liked a lot, some things didn’t move me much—though it must be said there were more of the former than the latter. The desserts were the most uniformly pedestrian part of the meal. In the US, of course, this would be a top notch Indian restaurant—I’d eat here regularly if it were in the Twin Cities—but as much as I liked three of the four meat dishes I don’t think this is a restaurant I need to come back to on every trip to Delhi. For a lot of what they serve there are better versions available in specialist restaurants. That said, I would recommend it without reservation to visitors with not too much time on their hands to get to all the specialists. Though as far as the pan-regional thing goes, I think Lota is both better and more interesting (we did eat there again a few days later—report coming soon). Jamun, on the other hand, is a hipper space and serves cocktails. This may persuade you towards them.

Up next from Delhi: a Punjabi meal. But before that a Vietnamese report from Minnesota.

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