Conceptualized and created by noted Indian entrepreneur, restaurateur and chef Farrokh Khambata with breathtaking views of the Dubai skyline on the 31st floor of Sofitel Downtown, Jaan is Dubai’s latest addition on the lengthening list of ‘progressive’ Indian fine-dining restaurants.
The restaurant opened its doors to the public just a week or so before Diwali, a brilliant move as the buzz was already out and this newbie suddenly had an unanticipated lineup of reservations! I was fortunate enough to try out Jaan just a week into its opening, and given the hype, I was really keen on trying them out.
The interiors of Jaan Dubai is suave and sophisticated. Dimly lit with low-key mood music in the background, you can’t help but admire the striking Dubai skyline from the floor to ceiling windows.
We were ushered to our table, and hosted by a lovely server of Egyptian origin. His slight Arabic twang on Indian names in the menu made me giggle, yet despite the restaurant only being operational for under a week, he was very well-versed with the menu options and proved to be immaculate with his drinks suggestions!
The Appetizers Round
Here is a look at what we had for our starters round:
Salmon Kejriwal: This Japanese-style sushi is named after the prominent Indian political figure Arvind Kejriwal. I am not well versed enough in Indian politics to understand the link – perhaps Kejriwal has a liking for boiled eggs? I for one am not a huge fan of boiled eggs, but the combination of raw salmon with the creaminess of perfectly cooked egg (cooked 75 degrees sous vide) seemed to work beautifully well together. To add a touch of Indianness, this roll is spiked up with a mild hint of smoked jwala chili mayo. A little more filling than your usual sushi roll, this clever little starter got me excited to see what else we had in store.
I absolutely love raw seafood, and was therefore delighted to see the next appetizer featured some as well! This is Jaan Dubai’s Jhaal Muri Ceviche. ‘Jhaal Muri’ is a very popular East Indian street food consisting of puffed rice, chili, mustard oil and other condiments. Essentially a vegetarian snack, I never dreamed of having it with raw fish! Chef Khambatta toys with the idea of Bengali love for fish by basing this starter on raw yellowtail amberjack. The dish was ice cold, the fish amazingly fresh, and yet I could taste the characteristic pungency of mustard oil, so well loved in a traditional Jhaal Muri. What a clever concept!
The next starter dish was so artistic, that it had me a little freaked out! This is Jaan Dubai’s Hunter’s Poussin, a platter of clay oven cooked chicken tenders, basted in a very aromatic basil and cumin concoction. It comes with a delicious, brightly hued beetroot chutney on the side (although I found the bird foot holder a little eerie… is it a chicken foot or a duck foot?!).
So far, the lineup of dishes at Jaan had me totally awestruck. Apart from the presentation itself, each dish toyed with the most unusual of flavor combinations… yet managed to work together beautifully well!
The next appetizer is Jaan Dubai’s Big Head Prawns. These char-grilled king prawns, basted in aromatic garlic butter, might pale in comparison to the creative genius of the previous dishes, but once again the presentation was spot on! Each prawn was meaty, juicy moist, and had a delicate hint of char-grilled smokiness.
One of my favorites from the appetizer round was Jaan Dubai’s Cherry Wood Chicken. These boneless bites of smoke-infused chicken have the pungency of Boriya Mirch, a round fiery hot chili that originates from Mexico. Each bite is succulently moist, and loaded with flavor. To me, it tastes like a posher counterpart of the very popular South Indian Chicken 65.
And that, my friends, was only the appetizers round! We also sipped on some very interesting drinks. Jaan Dubai’s drinks menu is divided up into five sections: Forte (stronger on the alcohol content), Funky (lighter cocktails), Fruity (for those who prefer sweeter cocktails), Fancy (signature cocktails, immaculately presented) and Fenir (perfect ‘night caps’ to end a long feast-full night). Those who don’t drink alcohol needn’t feel left out as Jaan Dubai also does a whole array of interesting mocktails, and can also recreate something off the cocktail section sans any alcohol.
From the Forte section, Hubby started off with Jaan Dubai’s Bourbon Colors, a potent hit of Bourbon with a sweet apple, honey and cinnamon base.
I had Jaan Dubai’s very own version of Julep… their Plum-It is a fruity medley of vodka, red plum and basil.
Further into the evening, I decided to try Jaan Dubai’s curiously named The Kitty Brewer from the ‘Funky’ drinks section. This rather fruity medley is a combination of mandarin vodka, sweet white wine campari and cranberry juice. The glass it comes in is as cool as the drink itself! You have to sip it through the tail, so feline… so kitty-cat like, meow!
Hubby got to sip his second drink through the glass too! This is Jaan Dubai’s Smoking Cosmo, a cosmopolitan hit with the magic of smoking nitrogen. The menu does not even list its ingredients, and leaves the drinker guessing on the flavor combinations.
For ‘night caps’, I would suggest the Irish Cream if you like it sweet (a drink that can easily fit into the dessert section, this is combination of Irish whiskey, Amaretto and cinnamon cream is an absolute treat). And if you are looking for something more robust to keep the night rolling, give the Espresso Jaan a go. This combination of vodka, amarula and a shot of espresso is sure to keep you going into the wee hours of the night.
The Main Course
Moving onto the mains, here is a look at what we were served up at Jaan Dubai:
Dhaba Highway Restaurant Butter Chicken: An ode to the small ‘dhaba’ restaurants that line the isolated highways of India, Jaan Dubai has recreated a deliciously creamy Butter Chicken curry featuring pulled chicken pieces. And how cute is the tiffin box it comes in?!
Sizzling Chole Hummus with Amritsari Kulcha: ‘Chole’ is a very popular spiced chickpeas dish from Northern India. Given that chickpeas are found more commonly in hummus in our region, Chef Khambatta creates a marriage of the two by creating a ‘Chole Hummus’! This is pure genius as the chickpeas have been cooked to a mush-like consistency which makes the flavor combinations of the spices more potent, and it goes deliciously well with the traditional potato-stuffed Kulcha bread of Punjabi origin.
I also enjoyed the Kulchas with the very buttery, thick and moreish Daal Makhani.
We were also served a vegetarian pilaf on the side. Cooked in the traditional ‘dum’ style reserved for biryani, this pilaf looks deceivingly simple. As soon as the top was cut open, we could get whiffs of the truffle oil. The flavor of truffle is deep, robust and enticing in this dish, and I could eat this dish sans any curry or other condiments. Exceptionally good!
And finally it’s time for dessert!
Shahi Tukda is a well-loved Indian dessert consisting of toasted bread that has been soaked in sugar syrup and is served with ‘mawa’, or dried milk. Chef Khambatta has once again merged this treat with a global counterpart; the French Toast. This is Jaan Dubai’s French Toast Shahi Tukda, a block of sweet bread so immaculately soft, that I actually rechecked to see if it was filled with cream on the inside! It comes with a decadent Kulfi popsicle on the side, which my daughter claimed right away.
However, my favorite dessert from the night was Jaan Dubai’s aptly named Nirvana. An Indian-style Pana Cotta with the decadent addition of saffron, this treat was spooned up with much gusto and disappeared from the plate in record time! Is it just me, or does this dessert look like Olaf from Frozen? With the addition of the berry compote, this is Olaf massacred! (Sorry, I still haven’t quite gotten over the Hunter’s Poussin!).
All in all, Jaan by Chef Farrokh Khambatta seems to be set to leave a mark on the Indian fine-dining scene of Dubai. Using the finest techniques and ingredients from all over the world, the main premise of Indian spices and heritage somehow manage to come alive with every dish here. The presentation is very artistic, the venue posh yet invitingly so. I am intrigued to see what Chef Khambatta has in store for Jaan in the coming months.