In a nutshell:
Exceeded expectations when it came to eating superb subtle Assamese food in the land of strong flavors & taste – Delhi.
Address & other details: Jakoi
Meal for 2: Rs. 700 onwards
Cuisine Type: Vegetarian & Nonvegetarian
Short Description – In case u r in a hurry:
The Assam Bhawan Canteen is managed by Jakoi, a restaurant Chain in Assam. The eatery has a nice & warm traditional look & feel to it. U can choose to sit indoors or outdoors. The outdoor seating is quite interesting conceptually – large hand painted metal trunks form a table & people sit around them on cane chairs.
Traditional bamboo products like fishing hats, fishing nets (jakoi) etc are displayed all over. In the indoor section, there are displays of traditional Mekhla Cloth, silk worms & a lot of interesting things.
The menu card looks like a Jakoi. There are options of set menus as well as ala carte. Vegetarian & Nonvegetarian options are available. Assamese names of all dishes were printed. On the table there was a small ‘special menu’ which was just Assamese words written in English Script……….
……….& that is what sparked off a debate. We had heard about a pepper called Bhut Jalokia which is hot but in a different way than Chilly. So we wanted to have a preparation with that. In our conversation with the staff, neither of us understood each other & we got what we did not order. After a tiny debate, the Manager came in & changed the dish to what we wanted. This could have been avoided if the additional menu wud also have had an English Translation.
Food is subtle & not ‘on the face’. Flavors r enjoyable. We loved the thali so much last time that we again went for the thali. We were pleasantly surprised to find that all of the dishes in the set menu were good.
Detailed Description – In case u have the time to enjoy reading:
For three of us we ordered two ‘Parampara Thalis’ & two alacarte dishes – Chicken with Bhut Jalokia & Fish cooked in Bamboo hollow.
The Thali started with a welcome drink was served hot in a shot glass. It had an enjoyable tangy taste & flavor and wasvery refreshing.
The traditional starter Khar was served – It had a tasty thick base of lentils & a bitter aftertaste. Historically natural ingredients were used to get to this taste but nowadays sodium bicarbonate is used as a shortcut.
Pitika (mashed potatoes seasoned with onions & coriander leaves) was superb. It’s a simple mashed potato but with little add ons, it tasted so good – inspite of we having something similar at home.
Yellow daal was very simple & subtle. This excellent dish was essentially boiled daal with tadka of coriander & onions.
Along with these dishes we were served Kahudi dry – a combination of mustard paste, mustard oil & tamarind. We were also served Kharoli dry – a combination of mustard paste, mustard oil, sodium bicarbonate. I liked the Kahudi better.
Kharisa (Grated bamboo shoot fermented in water seasoned with mustard oil & red chillies) had a very interesting taste & flavor to it. Loved it.
Another simple dish of Gram chana & potato was so subtle & tasty.
Steamed fish – fish cooked over charcoal, marinated in mustard paste wrapped in leaves. Similar to paturi that is eaten in Bengal but the flavor of the mustard gravy was different. Very enjoyable.
Loved the Fish Tenga – a Tangy Fish curry (jhol) with vegetables & lemon juice. Very different jhol than what the Bengalis have. Too good. Rohu was the fish used for this curry.
Chicken with Bhut Jalokia looked like any other ordinary chicken curry but taste was pleasantly different. It had a hot effect (of Bhut Jalokia) to it, different & nice flavors & very soft chicken pieces. This was served along with a nice Assamese fried rice made of small grains of aromatic rice.
The Duck curry had dark green masala gravy. It had a Good subtle taste & flavor. Biggest pleasant surprise was the super soft meat – almost never have I had such soft meat in an Indian Duck curry.
Fish in Bamboo hollow looked fabulous & exciting. When it came to taste, it was good but not great till I added the Kharisa. On adding the Kharisa, the taste changed for the better. Liked it but unlikely to reorder next time.
For Dessert we were served Crunchy Assamese Puffed Rice, liquid palm jaggery & thick cream in little bowls. We mixed all of that & ate. Simple, outstanding.
At last came paan leaves, masala & supari.
After having the thali on a few occassions, we revisited to try the ala carte.
In ala carte we tried all kinds of courses from starters to main course.
For starter, we had Shiuley phuler bor – what is called bora in bengali & vada in southern part of India. Shiuley phul is actually a flower – the waiting staff said it was jasmine. I had no idea people ate it as well.
It had a slightly crispy outer layer & soft within & The flowers were coated in besan & deep fried. These marble ball sized bors were subtle in both taste & flavor. Tasted good with a dark greenchutney that was served.
Papaya Khar was a super simple looking, super simple dish that tasted superb. It had a lentil base, was predominantly boiled, had huge chunks of cooked raw papaya & was garnished with raw mustard oil. Wow. The addition of the mustard gave a ‘kick’.
Brinjal pithika – basically turned out to be baingan ka bharta. But the difference was that here the brinjal was not mashed like the latter. Chunks of roasted brinjal was deskinned & served with onions, green chilli slices & uncooked mustard oil again. This dish can be had at home also & u really do not need to order it at a restaurant. We did that out of sheer ignorance.
Main course was spicy fish tenga – it was slightly sour, mildly sweet, a bit hot & of course was a salty dish. Full of flavors, this thin fish gravy was really good to taste. Must say that it is very difficult to get such a good taste in such a thin gravy.
At last came the duck curry – dark brown colored thick gravy with grainy texture had quite a strong taste & what was a surprise was the duck pieces – they were succulent beyond expectations.
One of the very few duck preparations that I have had other than Peking Duck could retain such softness in a duck meat. Overall, love this place by now. Will revisit few more times to try out the so far new dishes. Look forward to updates.