This is a blog about food at JKTDC & JK tourism board properties in different places of South Kashmir. To read about stay at these huts, please click our detailed post here – travel to Kashmir part 2
If you want to read about the general food culture of kashmir, please click to read our earlier post on this topic here – Kashmir food
Giving a summary of stay here, though.
In a nutshell:
JK tourism Properties – Conceptualized & constructed beautifully everywhere. Consistent. Maintained excellent in some & pathetic in others. Inconsistent.
Location – Mostly excellent.
Service – Kashmiris are generally warm & hospitable. Excellent behaviour at every property. Consistent. Different levels of efficiency of work. Inconsistent.
Food – Outstanding everywhere. Rare to have such consistency at Government run places.
Instagram: JK tourism board
Meal for 2: ₹200 onwards
Cuisine type : vegetarian & non vegetarian
Disclaimer: All restaurants / eateries reviewed by YUMMRAJ were visited by YUMMRAJ himself & he has paid for the full Bill & tips also. http://www.yummraj.com does not have even one featured / sponsored reviews. YUMMRAJ believes in going to a restaurant in anonymity, as a normal guest, experience everything & give an honest account of the same to you.
YUMMRAJ rates all the food items & then gives a final overall rating, which is a simple average of the individual item ratings. What the ratings stand for: 5 = Excellent, 4 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Disaster
All food & stay bills were paid by vana safaris to the restaurant / hotel. We paid by UPI transfer to vana safaris for the overall trip.
Short description- in case u r in a hurry
Summary of Stay
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation Limited is a company owned by the state Government, entrusted with managing government hotels and catering establishments.
There are two broad aspects of managing retail stores / restaurant chains / hotel chains remotely, in my understanding:
- Putting in extra effort to find excellent people for the job – a right mix of hospitality & business acumen.
- To constantly remotely manage the place by a smart system of reporting & customer feedback.
My understanding of the situation in JKTDC is that someone tried to do the point number 1 well. Most places have nice people. But they have not done a good job with point number 2.
Inspite of a good 1, there is a need for 2 because employees change over time. If not constantly addressed, people in remote establishment feel cut off, feel unheard. They also change with age, boredom of doing the same job year after year creeps in, family financial pressure increases etc etc.
Result of the above – Some stays at JKTDC & JK tourism are outstanding. The guys who manage these properties are good because they have managed themselves well. The guys who are doing a bad job are able to do it because the bosses are not monitoring what they are doing.
We stayed at Achabal. Outstanding. We stayed at Chhatpal. Pathetic. Food was very good at both. We did not stay at Kokernag property & also at Aharbal property but we ate lunch at both these places.
Like I said, Food was excellent in all the 4 properties. Especially in Achabal & Chatpal, the food was almost like home cooked. One can keep eating this food for days & still keep good health. This quality of food is almost impossible to expect in restaurants of large cities of India.
All these properties do not have a concept of tea kettle in the room. So carry your kettle or portable stove.
Detailed description – In case you have the time to enjoy reading:
Zaika restaurant, kokarnag, Anantnag
This property is inside the Kokernag botanical garden campus.
The restaurant has an outdoor seating as well as a nice indoor one. If guest wants to use the washroom, they will give a key to exclusive washroom for restaurant, so that thousands of people coming to the garden do not use it.
The daal was really nice – we could feel the texture of the daal , yet it was perfectly cooked. The balance of taste was perfect. The daal had lots of green chillies that did not make the dish too hot but added to the flavour. Rate it 4.25/5
After this we had an excellent paneer tomato.
What we noticed in our trip to Kashmir is that the average quality of paneer is way better than the junk industrial paneer sold in most shops in large cities. The paneer here is made in small batches by ‘milk & milk products’ shops. It’s like sweet makers in kolkata making sweets in small batches, using traditional methods, least short cuts. The result is that the paneer was quite soft & flavours were very nice, unlike the industrial ones in delhi NCR.
We also liked the kashmiri version of tomato based gravy much better. Here the tomato is celebrated (like the Italians do). Rate the paneer tomato 4.75/5
Lamb Roganjosh gravy was very good. It had way less floating oil than every kashmiri restaurant in delhi NCR. The gravy was thinner than the delhi kashmiri restaurants but thicker than the home variety (We ate food at two homes during the trip – a pashmina trader’s home & a farmer’s home). Rate the Roganjosh 4.5/5.
Rating of food at Zaika Kokernag averages out to 4.5/5
Heaven’s delicious restaurant aharbal kashmir
This restaurant is a beautiful independent building in the hills, in a picturesque setting.
There is indoor seating & limited outdoor (balcony) seating.
The service is super-fast & the boys were generally taking care of guests, even when the restaurant was running at full capacity.
We ordered danwal quorma, rishta with rice.
When the rice came, we realized that a dish named ‘Methi’ was served on top of mound of rice to everyone. We did not ask for it but it was given to everyone. On eating it, I realized it was made of lamb offals. The taste was very good. Every bite had a different texture depending on which part of the sheep came in that bite. Of course it had methi flavours. Rate it 4/5.
Danwal qourma was a dahi based gravy. It was slightly thicker than the watery & flavourful yakhni we have been eating at different places. The dahi based gravy of danwal Quorma was a bit danedar. Loved the gravy. The meat was super nice – it retained its texture & meaty flavours very well. I liked it so much that I poured the balance gravy in a glass & drank it. Rate it 4.75/5
The rishta was super soft & juicy. The meaty flavours were very well preserved in the gravy. The taste was very good. Rate the meatball 4.5/5 & the gravy 4/5. Overall rating of this dish is 4.25/5
Rating of food at Heaven’s delicious averages out to 4.3/5
Achabal JKTDC hut – Food by Zaika restaurant
Mohammad sayeed cooks food at the Achabal Zaika restaurant. In addition to this, he is also the porter, cook, server & caretaker all in one for the JKTDC huts. He was a one man army. Always smiling & busy with his work. Amazing guy.
After we placed order for the evening at around 6pm., he went to the market to buy the ingredients (including the monje in picture below) & then cooked everything for us. He then got the food in tiffin carrier to our hut.
Our brief was simple – please feed us anything that you like, as if we are guests at your house.
Day 1 Dinner
Monje haaq – a light thin gravy haaq saag (kashmiri spinach) with monje (knol khol). Absolutely home like super simple cooking. I found a full cardamom in the gravy. Very little other spices. Loved the monje. Rate it 4.5/5
Chhola daal (chaney ki daal) – this had full garlic cloves, perfectly balanced taste. The texture was perfect – not too soft & not hard. It had a nice bite. Rate the daal 4.5/5
Chicken curry – the marinated chicken had been deep fried I think, before cooking in a curry. That changed the external texture to a bit hard. The meat was also a bit fibrous. The gravy had been cooked very well – flavourful thin gravy. Rate the gravy 4/5. Rate the chicken piece 2/5. Rate the dish 3/5.
Day 2 dinner
Aloo gobhi gajar curry ws very good. Super simple. Perfect texture of vegetables. No mindless masalas, no oil floating. Absolutely home like. Rate it 4.25/5
Haaq with rajma in it was excellent. We polished it off till the last drop. Rate it 4.5/5
Egg curry had a thick gravy of onion & garlic & few spices. Really too good to taste. Again, home like. Rate it 4.5/5
Rating of food at achabal averages out to 4.2/5
JK tourism hut, Chatpal
While the upkeep of this place was a disaster, the food was fabulous. Read a very different experience at Chatpal by another travel blogger couple whom we know – sandeepachetan. The caretaker who was ther during their time has moved out of this property. Hence the change in situation.
We tried Trout fry – fresh fish, deep fried till crisp. The trout available here is of two types – wild ones found in Jhelum & the fared ones. This one was farmed variety. The wild ones are much better we got to know. This fish had very good flavours. Loved it. Rate it 4.5/5
Green moong dal – the daal was perfectly cooked & the grains of dal were soft enough for a good bite but hard enough that it would not turn to a paste. There was a thin gravy with this. Rate it 4.5/5
Cauliflower cabbage aloo curry was home like – low on spices that hit the face, textures of vegetables were good, seasoning was ok, overall taste was good. The curry had a thin gravy. Rate it 3.5/5
We absolutely loved the soft yet ‘crispy on the outside” triangle parathas & aloo subzi that we were served at breakfast. Rate it 4.5/5
Rating of food at JK tourism hut Chatpal averages out to 4.3/5
Overall rating of food at these 4 places averages out to 4.3/5
I would say that’s an amazing score to pull off by a chain of restaurants.