A Royal Christmas

Roda Al Murooj,
Downtown Dubai, 

25th December, 2016

A quiet night out with family, a dinner at Jodhpur absolutely free. That’s all I want for Christmas this year!

Well the second part did not happen (no big surprise there!). But a night-out at the highly rated Jodhpur with family is just what the doctor ordered. That it was a Christmas night, well that was just an added bonus. I just want to make it clear to readers looking to visit Jodhpur that the restaurant does not serve Rajasthani cuisine, despite its name.

Jodhpur (the restaurant) was always on my food bucket-list ever since I saw its rating on Zomato (4.9/5.0!), a rating that looked like the grade point average of a student who didn’t have a social life. The restaurant had opened to rave reviews from both, critics as well as diners, and Chef Pradeep Khullar had been lavishly praised for his perfect blend of traditional Indian cuisine and modern scientific methods. So it was a no-brainer that my stay in Dubai would include a visit to the restaurant. Given that we planned to visit the restaurant on Christmas, it was a bit brave booking only a day in advance. When I asked my dad what time to reserve a table for, he said 7:00 p.m., which I immediately shot down stating that it was too early. Instead I suggested we book a table at 7:30 p.m. (yes, half an hour make a huge difference). When I tried to make the reservations online, on Zomato, any guesses what happened? Parents you are correct. My dad was right on the money, only the 7:00 p.m. slot was free (see what did I tell you about the half hour), and so the reservation was made. 

I have actually been to Jodhpur before, almost 7 years ago, when it was operated under the name of Zaika. The last time I had visited the restaurant, it was my dad’s birthday, and the evening was one of the memorable ones in recent memory – not particularly because of the dining experience but because of events that happened later that night. As we walked up to the restaurant, located in the heart of the Roda Al Murooj (up a small hill), my thoughts wandered to that peculiar night, hoping that things would be slightly different; that instead the night (and Christmas) would be remembered for the dining experience rather than other extraneous events.

7:00 p.m. – We arrived at the restaurant on time for our reservation. As we entered, we were warmly greeted by the receptionist, who immediately gave us the option of sitting outside, which we duly obliged given that the weather outside was brilliantly pleasant. We were then escorted by the receptionist to our table, which was down a flight of stairs and located in a delightful little island in the middle of a man-made lagoon. As soon as were seated, we were handed the menus. Being the 25th of December, we were provided an additional Christmas-day menu – a 7 course meal (2 cold starters, 2 hot starters, 1 palate cleanser, 1 main course, and 1 dessert). It was a tough decision to make – whether to go for the special meal or just order à la carte. I, personally, did not find the Christmas menu to be to my liking, mainly because of certain items in the menu (the afghani murgh if you want me to be specific). So when the waiter came to take our order, we decided to go for 2 Christmas menus and 2 à la carte. On hearing our order, the waiter suggested that we all go for the Christmas menu – a decision that I would later be most grateful for. When I gave him my reason for choosing the à la carte option, he did something which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before – he agreed to swap the Afghani Murgh and the Salmon starter for a Chicken Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala respectively. The willingness to adapt to the customer’s needs is something that is, I find, sorely missed in the food industry, after all – Consumer is King (Business 101). As an added benefit (especially to you wine lovers), the menu included 5 drinks (Mulled Wine, Champagne, White Wine, Red Wine, and Cognac) for an additional AED 100. As soon as we heard the word ‘drink’ come out of our waiter’s mouth, our minds were made up. Four Christmas menus (inclusive of the drinks of course) please!

7:10 p.m. – We were enjoying the night when our waiter arrived with what we thought would be the customary fried papad and hung curd/yogurt. However there was nothing customary about this. Instead, we were served flaky khara biscuits with a thick yogurt dip, presented beautifully on a wire-made, cloth-covered auto-rickshaw. The deviation from the usual and predictable was probably the best preview to what was to come for dinner.

 The Christmas Centrepiece with the Passion-fruit Mojito and the Mulled Wine
The Christmas Centrepiece with the Passion-fruit Mojito and the Mulled Wine

7:20 p.m. –  There was a sudden chill in the air and we knew our first cold starter had arrived. Floating (or at least it looked like it was!) on a cloud of dry ice were four small yellow eyes staring right at you. It was only when we blew the dry ice off that we realized that these “eyes” were actually sitting on a cute little stool, and they weren’t really “eyes” but rather macarons. A sweet dish at the start of the meal? Nah! Turns out that our first cold starter or what the French call an ‘Amuse Bouche’ – a single, bite-sized dish (I don’t use the word appetizer as an amuse bouche is considered something different) – was a ‘Macaron Chaat’ – ingenious innit?! The macarons were shaped like mini-sliders, with the spicy and sour sauce acting as the filling. As you do with an ‘amuse bouche’, we popped the entire macaron into our mouths, and what happened next was entirely unexpected. We were hit by a rollercoaster of flavours. First came the sweetness of the macarons, soon followed by the sourness of the sauce, and lastly a kick of spice hit me as the starter travelled down my throat. These multitude of flavours left me wanting more, in a good way. But knowing that there were 3 more starters to follow, I think the portion was just right.

 ( From top left to bottom right ): Kara Biscuits and Yogurt Dip; Macaron Chaat; Frozen Pakora Chaat; Salmon Dill Tikka; Paneer Malai Tikka; Chicken Tikka Masala; Hara Bara Kabab; Raan with Sesame Lavash; Raspberry Chuskas with Black S
(From top left to bottom right ): Kara Biscuits and Yogurt Dip; Macaron Chaat; Frozen Pakora Chaat; Salmon Dill Tikka; Paneer Malai Tikka; Chicken Tikka Masala; Hara Bara Kabab; Raan with Sesame Lavash; Raspberry Chuskas with Black Salt

7:25 p.m. – As our first starter was being cleared, our waiter brought us the first of our five drinks – the Mulled Wine – and the Passion Mojito cocktail for my under-aged sister. The Mojito, served in a chilled steel bucket, and the small glasses of Mulled Wine were served on a grassy centrepiece surrounded by various Christmas ornaments. Cheers! No sooner than we took our first sip, our waiter served us our second cold starter – another Chaat dish, this time with frozen spinach pakora, yogurt, pomegranate, and drizzled with the sweet and spicy sauces. The dish was extremely flavourful, despite it nearly freezing my insides. I suppose the biggest compliment I can give the dish is that even my sister cleaned up her plate, and she HATES yogurt!

7:40 p.m. – Here comes the bubbly! Cheers again! And along with it, our first hot starters – Paneer Malai Tikka for the vegetarian; Salmon Dill Tikka and Chicken Tikka Masala for the non-vegetarians. The Chicken was ever so succulent that it was all over in two to three bites (what a pity!). Almost immediately we were served our second hot starter – the Hara Bara Kabab for the vegetarian and the Raan with Sesame Lavash for the non-vegetarians. Here comes our White Wine! Che–hiccup–ers! While serving the Raan, our waiter (who I must mention did his absolute best to try and please us and succeeded) claimed, vehemently, that these would be the softest lamb pieces that we would ever have. What a way to get your hopes up, even after reality had already broken through (and by some margin) our expectation barrier. Anyway, the lamb, which we were told had been braised for roughly 3 days, was extremely soft (not the softest I’ve ever had but then again I lived in the land of Galouti Kababs) and succulent. Once again, it was over all too soon. When the waiter arrived to clear our plates, we told him to hold on to the palate cleanser for a while, as we wanted time to digest all of the starters.

 ( From left to right ) - Palak Malai; Chicken Curry; Afghani Murg; and Tandoori Salmon 
(From left to right) – Palak Malai; Chicken Curry; Afghani Murgh; and Tandoori Salmon 

8:00 p.m. – Just when we thought presentation could not get better, out comes the palate cleansers – Raspberry and Black Salt Chuskas (mini ice-lollies) – presented in the cutest and smallest of pressure cookers (they even had ‘Hawkins’ labels on them!). One bite of the cleanser and my tongue was writhing in agony. It tasted like a new Hajmola candy flavour, which would be absolutely delightful for fans of the Indian “candy”, but unfortunately none of us were and so we left the cleanser unfinished. 

8:15 p.m. – Dinner is served! Palak Malai for my mum; Afghani Murg for my sister; Tandoori Salmon for my dad; and Chicken Curry for me. Here comes the Red Wine! Ch…oh forget it! In addition to our dishes, we were served a bowl of raita, a bowl of Dal Makhani, a bowl of rice, and a bread basket. Seeing so many dishes on the table, our stomachs called it a day. But how can you refuse a meal that is so inviting and tantilizing in looks as well as smell? The simple answer is you can’t. And so we dug in to our dishes. The Chicken Curry was absolutely fantastic, not too spicy, and not too rich (which I find most North Indian restaurants to be guilty of).  The Dal Makhani, on the contrary, was rather rich and creamy but that’s what made it so delicious. If there was one dish that I could criticize (and this is just nitpicking!), it would have to be the Raita , which I felt to be on the sweeter side. Our stomachs expanded, and our eyes droopy after such a heavy meal, it was only natural that when the waiter came and asked if we would like desserts, that we agreed (in unison) that we would only have 2 of the 4 Christmas Dessert Platters.

 Christmas Dessert Platter - Jalebi chains with a side of Pistachio cream; Deconstructed Chocolate Tart topped with Caramel Sauce and pieces of marshmallows; Candy Cane
Christmas Dessert Platter – Jalebi chains with a side of Pistachio cream; Deconstructed Chocolate Tart topped with Caramel Sauce and pieces of marshmallows; Candy Cane

9:00 p.m. – Our Christmas Dessert Platters arrive. The dish contained four Jalebi chains with a side of Pistachio cream, a deconstructed chocolate tart topped with caramel sauce and pieces of marshmallows, and two candy canes. The moment the dish was served, I knew it was going to take all of my strength, and not to mention all of the empty pockets in my stomach, to finish the dessert. Save for the candy canes, I felt we did more than alright, we almost polished off the dessert platter. The Jalebi chains were not as sweet as I had expected them to be, and that was maybe a good thing, as the tart was on the extreme end of the spectrum. If there was one criticism about the platter, it is that Jalebis are at their best when served hot and dripping with sugar syrup, and so tearing them away from their natural state to a more frigid one was probably not the best idea, no matter how good they were.

After wiping our sugared mouths clean with a hot towel, it was time to call it a day. But before I end the article, I find it pertinent to comment on the two surprise visits that we go while dining. The first was from the Chef himself, who checked in on our perceptions of the food (no complaints here!) and whether we would have liked any changes in the menu (who said politeness was dead in the world?). The second was from the restaurant’s manager, who reiterated the Chef’s sentiments and asked us if service in the restaurant was up to standards. To be honest, I didn’t think Jodhpur’s service met any standards; rather it set a new benchmark for service in other restaurants.

As if we thought that the day couldn’t get better, when we received the bill, it was beautifully presented inside a rustic, copper car. We paid the bill and made our way up to the main entrance, where we were lucky enough to find a buggy waiting to take us to the taxi stand, for we couldn’t walk any further. It is a rarity to find a restaurant that is absolutely flawless in service, nearly perfect in presentation, and exceptionally brilliant in food and taste, and Jodhpur is one such rarity. Never have I had a dinner experience that was so filling, so luxurious (there was even a 10% service charge!) yet worth every penny. It may be only a Christmas wish, but I hope to be dining at one of Dubai’s best Indian restaurants (maybe even one of the best I have ever had!) sooner than later. 

Jodhpur Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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