Another opportunity to meet an old friend and that to over a lovely spread of Afghani cuisine was something the bhukkads of B team would not miss at any cost. So here we were, for a pit stop on our culinary journey at Chandralok/ Jumeirah Café situated close to Mahalaxmi Lawns, Karve road.
The place dates back more than 20 years and till recent it was known as just another place to sit back and have some nips but this was seriously undermining its true potential. Given the location and the kind of property that it is, Chandralok restaurant had to be much more than its old form so the folks from Oporto hospitality namely Abhinav, Udit and Aditya Neelgaonkar decided on revamping the place to what it is today. The place has a sprawling expanse besides the Mutha River and hosts a fine dine section (for corporates), an open garden sit out (for families), a party lawn (which can host 200 pax) – Chandralok restaurant and a roof top sit out – Jumeirah, for the youngsters.
The sit out is quiet laid back and sports a screen-projector setup for all your adrenaline needs. The place was first in town to showcase a MOTO GP session on big screen with some special offers for its patrons. First mover’s advantage you see. The whole sit out comprises of 12 tables approx. which can hold about 6 to 10 pax each. The décor is totally Arabic with colorful drapes covering the masts that shoot out of the main deck. The place being abundant with foliage makes it a great place to unwind with friends for sports sessions over some chilled beers. The whole place is still undergoing a lot of changes and is in the process of evolution from its original form but must say that the passionate new management has taken note of the smallest of elements that can be altered to add in to the ‘Experience’ that dining at Jumeirah is. (The new management took over from Oct and the new setup is just since Jan and will keep evolving in due course of time)
Food: We got to talking over some super chilled beers and their preferred finger food – the Karari Roti. The delectable starters were soon to follow. For the appetizers, we started off with paneer Nizami, Murg Nizami tikka and Makhrana tangdi kebab. The karari roti although a decent preparation can be altered in the sense that there was an oily feel to it which needs to be replaced by butter. Karari roti uses abundant butter (and that too which goes right till the edges, the edges here were left dry), chili powder and chat masala among other tangy ingredients that can be leveraged. The Makhrana tangdi kebab was just what it is was born to be – Simply delectable. The kebab used perfect sized leg pieces which were marinated to give the melt in the mouth texture. Coupled with mild lemony, tangy spices and charred in tandoor these drumsticks were sheer bliss. One of those things you can’t have enough of. #MustHave . Both Nizami tikkas were also bang on with the flavors. The texture and the tanginess were spot on. #HighlyRecommended …#Marrakesh beware you have some serious competition from these folks.
We had few more starters before moving on to mains. Next came in the Corn cheese croquettes, the 3 layered beauty which used American sweet corn infused in a two layer blanket of cheese and mashed potatoes. The pops were a bit dry and could use some dominating flavor as the dish; although nicely made, were little on the bland side. Murg banjara kebab was the next in line on the flavorful journey and yet again a dish with perfect justice to the recipe. In short the perception built up to be, that the place is great to have Afghani starters along with chilled beers and/ or sheesha. Yes, did I mention they serve abundant variety of flavored sheeshas? Jumeirah is becoming quiet famous amongst the youngsters for their sheeshas on the menu.
The mains had equally well line up varying from Chicken Handi to Nalli nihari to Dal makhni. The mains had assorted roti basket being served to accompany the gravies. The kulchas were really nice but we largely consumed tandoori rotis. Nalli Nihari was simply too good a dish. Generally it is observed that places/ Chefs who are great at serving afghani tikkas are also brilliant with mutton dishes. The gravy was appropriately thick, used some sun dried onions and tomatoes to give it right consistency and a dash of sweetness. Meat was coming off the bone just right; so classic overall. Chicken Handy came in as a rather surprise for me. I had them checked twice on the name of the recipe because it was nothing like chicken handi you might have conceptualized based on your past encounters. IT was a rather spicier re-incarnation of the dish. The dish had fluidic gravy against thick gravy and also used spicy dried red chilies to give additional spicy touch. The dish was good for me but i doubt if it’s ready for the Pune palette. I suggested renaming the dish to something else as their would rather be a disconnect when people order chicken handi just to find out that’s its different from expectation. Dal makhani was the star amongst the mains. So much that i would rate it even more than nalli nihari. Actually, after makhrana tandgi kebab this would stand second best for the night. Perfectly softened, homogenous buttery texture topped with oodles of fresh cream and some coriander, this was simply made to rule the hearts.
We also had some chicken biryani to finish off mains on a complete note. The biryani was again generous in quantity, well balanced between spices used and chicken. The chicken used was apparently already tandoored a bit after having marinated with some mild flavors. To give a better idea, imagine a Reshmi kebab diced and cooked with rice. Not the best biryani but certainly in top 10, which is still a score keeping in mind the competition the market has to offer. (This is from restaurant perspective and caterers are not counted)
Desserts were largely Indian in sharp contrast, considering the food we were having all this while and included the likes of Gajar halwa and brownie with ice cream. A hit and a miss here. While the gajar halwa was nice with all the khova that went in and curdling a bit because of that, adequate sweetness and a moist texture; the brownie didn’t score well. The brownie was very ordinary and more hard than what should be served. The sweet-bitter contrast expected from the brownies was also missing largely. Chocolate sauce vaporized quickly and so the dish became dry overall. This certainly has scope of improvement but gajar halwa saved the desserts from a possible debacle.
So overall, the verdict is amazingly in favor of the place and boils down to:
Food: 8.5/10 (4.25/5)
Ambiance: 7/10 (It was getting pretty hot and we could have used some mist fans. The low sitting could be uncomfortable at times when you sit for long)
Lastly, a big shout out for our friend Trishla and the management for hosting the B Team and treating us with some of the finest recipes they have for their patrons.