Given that Jailsalmer is a city in Rajasthan made famous by Satyajit Ray in Sonar Kella, his first Feluda adventure, you could be forgiven for being in the dark about Kolkata harbouring a Jailsalmer in its midst. This one, though, is the name of a restaurant that offers a gastronomical adventure, with every visitor promised a tasty, well-flavoured journey through its portals. Situated in the posh neighbourhood of Salt Lake in Sector V, Podium Floor, Globsyn Crystal, EP & GP Block, slap in the midst of the IT sector, the ambience, décor and music have nothing to do with either Rajasthan or its Jaisalmer. But then, as Shahespeare put it, “What&’s in a name?” When it comes to a love for food, this place does the honours.
Spread over two tiers with a table cover of 200, this multi-cuisine restaurant offers the best in Indian, Chinese and Pan-Asian fare with a buffet in the bargain for for those who tend to fight shy of fine-dining a la carte. And where chefs normally specialise in the different styles of cuisine that a menu offers, here head chef Shabbir Mohammed and his team of bawarchis are forever ready to answer your questions and clarify your doubts.
When the restaurant recently designed and hosted a Mughal Darbar Food Festival, Shabir spread out an elaborate and Badshahi array of dishes that included kebabs, chaap, biryani, kulchas and gajar ka halwa spiked with roughly ground cardamom to retain the delicate flavour. The generous dipping into saffron to flavour the dishes added the necessary aura of the rich and the famous so far as Mughlai food is concerned — royal, filled with dignity and taste that is just so. “Our vegetables are bought fresh every day and there are no leftovers used. We keep nothing in the fridge for use the next day, and the same applies to our meat, so that our customers can actually feel the freshness in the fare,” says Shabbir Mohammed.
He has specialised in tandoor dishes cooked generally on a slow fire, but supervises everything. Some of the regular dishes have interestingly names, such as the one with a generous dose of ginger called Adrak Ke Punjey after a very famous play, a satire on everyday life and people. Written by Babban Khan in a mix of Urdu and Dakhni, the play ran from 1965 to 2001. It&’s mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records, 1984, as “the world&’s longest-running one-man show”.
This Jaisalmer reminds you of what food connoisseur and literatteur Pushpesh Pant said, “The taste of paradise is not limited to Roghan Josh, Kabargah, Alu Dum and Rista-Gusthaba. There are delightful vegetarian delicacies that are waiting to be given their due. Nadur Yakhni or Khatte Nadur have seductive powers, subtle yet irresistible. Try the Kashmiri chaman once and one can bet safely that you will think twice about ordering kadahi paneer or even the shahi one.”
Well, this could confuse you more than offering a clarification, so you beckon the well-starched service staff. And should they fail to respond to a particular query, Shabbir Mohammed is at your elbow almost at once.
The food, service and the attention focussed on you would tend to make you feel you’re the only guest around, but the care bestowed is a beautiful combination of nafasat (sophistication) and nazakat (delicacy), the two mandatory qualities of Mughlai food at its best. The starters are something you could die for — the range runs from Khusnuma Kebab, Lasuni Kebab and Birbali Kebab to Nilgiri Kebab and Zafrani Paneer Kebab, which spoils you utterly for choice. The main course involves the Lucknawi Mutton Biriyani and Handi Chaap, each available with a vegetarian alternative that is no less tasty. The vegetarian starters are as colourful as they are tasty, tender and textured. Among these are the Zafrani Paneer Kebab, Dahi Kebab, Nilgiri Seekh Kebab and Bharawan Gilafi Aloo, the last a rather sophisticated monicker for stuffed potatoes. The main dish on the vegan menu offers Paneer Biryani and Nizami Handi.
The regular buffet laid out is a carefully chosen combination of Indian, Chinese and Pan-Asian dishes, of which I found it very intriguing to discover the Bengali-style mustard fish seasoned with cassia leaves that is a big no-no among traditional Bengali fare. The general Chinese chilli chicken, too, had a special twist specific to Jaisalmer. And top marks would certainly go to the melt-in-the-mouth dessert, baked mihidana that you can easily opt for, leaving the gajjar halwa behind as this dish is unique for most foodies.
There is a 10 per cent discount for corporate clients, what with the number of customers rising by the day, making for a full house on weekends and public holidays, with families coming in even when the offices are closed. Corporate clients are provided identity cards and the billing is roughly tagged at Rs 1,000 for a pair of non-vegans and about Rs 800 for a couple of vegans.