When it comes to seeking out Indian food, the options are certainly plentiful. Most often these days this tends to mean varying degrees of fusion whereby a chef may work to match Indian food and experience to the specific palette of the local clientele. At Jamawar however, guided by the belief that some authenticity is lost in these translations, they stick with the tried and true cuisines of Northern India made entirely by a team from the northern states in order to keep the experience as authentic as possible. From the highest chef to the lowest in prep, all of their team is working together to deliver the passion of a true Indian dining experience. In fact, the only thing that might be notably different from a recent trip to Delhi itself, is that the ingredients are of a higher quality.
Located inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel, and surrounded by other fittingly high end brands like Fauchon and Al Baraka, one should make no mistake: this is not casual Indian dining fare.
Even the name Jamawar itself is an allusion to the often seen but little understood Jamawar pattern found on so many pashmina shawls throughout the world. However, as historic lure would have it, due to their time consuming hand crafted nature (some literally took years to make), it was often only royalty that could be seen with these fine garments. This is a purposeful, if historically subtle, foreshadowing of the experience that the team at Jamawar aims to bring you: the royal treatment.
From the moment you approach the front door and are welcomed by the intimidatingly formal Indian doorman (see: darabana in Hindi) replete with oversized moustache, you know you are in for an experience. Plus, you’ve just got to respect a job where a man is hired by the quality of his facial hair!
Blending the old world style of copper pots and gold tableware and pans, mixed with sleek black and modern table-tops all whilst an art deco chandelier swings overhead, the experience is elegant and inviting. Even the paintings inside were hand picked by the owner himself, Mr. Emad Bukhamseen, on a trip to Delhi with the chef. Between him and General Manager Mohammed Bseiso this project is their baby and has their personal stamp on it. Additionally notable for ambiance is that they have live music playing every night of the week, where Harmonium, Tabla, and Sitar alike, will all blend together in a soothing and soulful reminder of true India before you have even arrived at your table.
Once seated, your light wafer-like Papad arrives with mango, mint, and tamarind chutneys in tow. You may here try to resist an order of Naan out of sheer anticipation of culinary overload. But- you must give in! The garlic and plain Naan are as good as you will have anywhere, and the mint Naan specifically-which your culinary correspondent had never personally tried—was re-mark-able! Not too sweet but still infused with enough mint flavors that it leapt off of the Naan in a more nuanced way than one could rightfully expect. Though I personally don’t tend to order salads due to how much I already know I am going to be eating, the Kachumber salad was a delicious and refreshingly light hint of the flavors still to come.
The most amazing aspect about Indian food in general, is how fully formed the flavor profiles are. Each bite has layers of flavors that drift in and out mid-bite to culminate in a sublime dining experience. Here they cite kebabs as one of their specialties, with geographically historic significance of origin as proof. And while this may seem to teeter between bold aspiration and braggadocio in a region that sees these everywhere, I must say, that these were the best I have had in a long time. Unequivocally.
What immediately caught my eye about the main course as it came out was an unusual delivery of the rice. This particular varietal, while on its own looks similar to what you would think, is prepared by partially preparing the rice, and then putting a layer of dough on the top. This results in steaming the rice the rest of the way to cooked and more fully imparting the flavors within throughout the rice. This in itself was a unique and delicious experience not to be missed. Yet to go on solely about the sides when the Chicken Dum Biryani (everyone loves Biryani, right?) , Murg Makhani (Butter Chicken -a classic), Jhinga Masala (succulent shrimp in a Masala sauce) were also exceptional would be as much a disservice as any attempt at description beyond this: the quality of the meats were fantastic, the sauces were flavorfully nuanced, they were cooked to perfection. Enough said.
If all that doesn’t do you in and you have managed to save room for dessert, try the Gulab Jumun. Though rich, these traditional dough balls in a sweetened sauce are worth a taste. Both the Ras Malai and Kulfi (which would seem to the lay person as variations on ice cream) were also delicious. Lastly, and as further proof of the attention to detail that went into this establishment, the Saunf candies (digestive fennel-based sweets normally served at the end of an Indian meal) here are a must try. They, here again, go one-step further and get the silver plated ones flown in especially from India: classy!
Mohammed Bseiso, the General Manager of several high-end concepts for Crowne Plaza offshoot Fauchon, says that he personally went to the 3 or 4 top Indian restaurants in India to make sure they were getting the best. Bseiso says both of the team and the hotel, “some hotel restaurants bring in people from other parts of the hotel who might not have a specialty in that cuisine. Here, it could not be more opposite. Every single chef from the highest to the lowest one here was brought from the 3-4 top restaurants in India. They were all excited to come in and be part of something from scratch that could really shine, and it shows.”
It has been approximately a month and a half since Jamawar opened its doors and was immediately well received. Thus far, the crew have been building the business the old fashioned way: purely by word of mouth. Planning a slow and steady opening in order to give them time to work towards perfection. It appears that they just may have reached it. If you are craving authentic Indian and you want to be wowed—head there now!