Our first dining experience at Jodhpur Royal Dining back in September 2016 left a lasting impression and gained us a new friend in the form Executive Chef Pradeep Khullar.
With Ramadan fast approaching, we couldn’t resist an invitation to return to the understated and regal Jodhpur for another dose of retro-innovative Indian cuisine, albeit this time with a subtle Arabesque twist. Descending the mirror-studded spiral staircase we’d seemingly forgotten just how unique the heart of the restaurant is, perfectly circular and designed like the inside of a majestic palace. Much like the city of Jodhpur itself, the restaurant is decorated in hues of turquoise and blue with the occasional splash of gold.
We were excited to sample Khullar’s food once again, in a concept that takes classical Indian dishes and re-interprets them for the modern age, while still retaining the memories and history associated with each plate. We really appreciated the idea of an Iftar in which all dishes are delivered direct to the table, meaning no buffets and more importantly, less food wastage.
Khullar’s Iftar menu also marks a turning point for Jodhpur as a restaurant. Gone are the smoke and the presentation gimmicks (no more mini pressure cookers) in favour of simply plated dishes that rely purely on colour and striking plating. It’s a smart move considering the explosion of ‘molecular’ restaurants in the last twelve months, where presentation is often used as a means to cover up distinctly average food. It’s pleasing to see Khullar’s food pushed to the forefront and we’re excited to see how Jodhpur transitions in the coming months.
Iftar is the breaking of ones fast following the Maghreb (sunset) prayer and this is usually done with dates and milk. This being Jodhpur, things are done with an innovative twist. As diners are presented with Textures Of Dates in which date lollipops are served around dates stuffed with rice crisps and adorned in edible gold. It’s an exciting take on an otherwise traditional practice and while the basic premise of the dish remains in tact, the use of feuilletinem coconut and chocolate is bound to leave a lasting impression.
It wouldn’t be a meal at Jodhpur without Macaroon Chaat, the pre-starter that became the talking point of Jodhpur’s opening and a dish that retains the ability to impress. Taking the classical French patisserie staple and transforming it into a savoury appetiser is a work of unabashed genius and represents fusion at its finest. Yet the idea can only be deemed a success if the flavours work and the combination of the sweet shell provides a stark contradiction to the chaat, like a shot of dynamite to the palette. The magical zing (created by a mixture of coriander root and lime powder) immediately opens up the tastebuds and leaves you instantly craving more.
The usual Ramadan drinks of Jallab and Amar al Dina are nowhere to be seen, though the team at Jodhpur have come up with some new concoctions to rehydrate and aid the digestive system. Imperative factors during the holy month. These new blends focus on fresh fruits and shy away from sugary syrups in favour of something healthier and ultimately more refreshing. From the Green Forest (cucumber, black, salt and cumin) to our personal favourite the Paan Mojito. Derived from a paan flavoured candy that has been melted down into a liquid and then mixed (paan itself is illegal in the UAE).
The Red Kidney Bean Hummus, Mandarin Skin, Toasted Bread was a familiar sight that draws inspiration from Heston Blumenthal’s signature ‘meat fruit’ dish. found at his London restaurant, Dinner by Heston. It’s interesting to see Khullar drawing inspiration from a number of sources in his Iftar menu and this homage to meat fruit is probably the most significant. While Heston’s filling utilised a chicken liver parfait, here at Jodhpur we have a red kidney bean hummus and a mandarin skin. It’s a well plated dish (albeit one that resembles a dessert) and we appreciated the Arabic focus from the hummus, though some extra toasted bread is required for the amount of ‘fruit’ that you get.
Next to arrive were our two favourite dishes of the day, the Beef Kofta With Strawberry Chilli Chutney and the Kolivada Prawn. The pulled beef kofta spheres were a nice surprise, wrapped in katafi (the vermicelli noodles used in kunafa, an Arabic dessert that’s popular during Ramadan) and topped with a strawberry and chili chutney that finds the perfect balance between sweet and fiery. The prawn dish is taken from Western India and is fried until crisp and tossed with masala and curry leaves before being served with a wasabi and betroot dip. It’s a dish of intricate flavours and textures and may be our second favourite dish at Jodhpur following the Beef Short Ribs With Aam Papad glaze from our previous visit.
Chef Khullar has created something truly exciting with the Nadru Galette & Mooli Akhrot Chutney. Khullar asks us to guess the core ingredient? Onion? Potato? We weren’t entirely sure, but the plate transpired to be parboiled Lotus stem, minced with lentils before being shallow fried, The dish is topped with grated radish and a walnut chutney and inside is a surprise in the form of tamarind pulp.
The main courses are the strong point of any Indian meal and the Iftar at Jodhpur is no different. Beginning with Ghee Roasted Mutton Boti With Dosai Crisps, the meat is unbelievably tender and bursting with the flavour from the tomatoes, ghee, coconut, fennel and coriander. While the Dosa crisp adds an additional texture and reminded us of our travels through India over a decade ago. Steamed Hake, marinated in harissa and served over a tomato and fennel sauce, adds a richness to the delicate fish.
The vegetarian Pinwheel Basil Paneer is also a standout. Using a cottage cheese stuffed with a basil and coriander mixture, that reminded us of an Italian cannelloni. Served with a sauce made from bottle gourd, cashew nuts and green cardamom, it will have you reaching for Khullar’s Chur-Chur Kulcha breads as the ultimate dipping tool.
Surprisingly the dessert offerings included in the Iftar move away from traditional Indian choices, while still retaining the flavours of the subcontinent. The Lotus Treacle Tart makes a welcome return in a slightly modified format that involves MUCH more Lotus than before. The Mango Cheesecake is less sweet than you might expect and partnered with a delicious mango Kulfi. Finally, the Sticky Burfi Banana Barrel is a delight. With its caramelized banana served over sticky pudding and accompanied by coconut and cinnamon ice cream. It’s bears an uncanny similarity to The Sticky Situation found at Abu Dhabi’s Tamba.
Returning to Jodhpur is always a pleasure and it’s interesting to watch the refinement and progression in Khullar’s food since our initial visit. He is clearly a man of immense passion and unwavering dedication to his restaurant and this Iftar menu is the result of many hours of experimentation and the perfecting of each dish.
Jodhpur offers a sense of mysticism lacking from many fine dining restaurants in Dubai and their Iftar offers a welcome change from the endless buffets of Arabic fare. Served nightly over two-sittings during the Holy month of Ramadan, this is the retro innovative Iftar we’ve all been waiting for.
We were invited to dine at Jodhpur Royal Dining. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE,