It is either coincidence or foresight that Jamun happens to be almost exactly Pantone’s 2018 colour of the year. Us hard-nosed critics would normally be inclined to the former explanation, we vote for credit given that this is the Passcode Hospitality’s seventh successful venture. The sound of music suddenly turns up when we walk in discussing this victory-upon-victory; Choli ke peeche is on at an unapologetic volume, and we are quieted with Jamun’s thrusting confidence, its sureness of self.
It’s become a Passcode signature to play up distinct references, directly and fully. Ping’s is about the Asian street and ATM is about English sophistication, this is primarily a celebration of India’s regional specialties. It’s a tribute to the pre-lib years with an angaan like setting, copper thaalis, and a playlist that firmly skips the last decade and a half. Still, there’s nothing heavy, or tiresome about the retro feel. Attempted analyses at our table draw up parallels to a lighter Good Earth, a less stuffy Indian Accent -- you get the point.
Attempted analyses at our table draw up parallels to a lighter Good Earth, a less stuffy Indian Accent -- you get the point.
Juicy What I Mean?
We’re fans of the hand-painted Jamun wall, lined with verandah–style seating. All around us are objects sourced to create a cultural Indian microcosm. Our kleptomaniac streak immediately has us feeling inside our purses to see how the mini-graters at each table would fit inside (the verdict: easily). Other tart things have us talking about the thoughtful interiors all through cocktail hour. As our vodka based Maid in India – yes, it’s about servitude, not production –arrives, we find ourselves feeling nothing more complex than plain old joy; kind of like actually having a blast at a friend’s mehendi (increasingly a distant memory).
The cool thing is that while Jamun has to do lots of “jamun” things to make itself felt, the infusion of the ingredient in most things actually makes them better. The Jamun Old Fashioned for example, is actually excellent. So is the kulfi, which turns out to be everyone’s favorite. While staff will gladly tell you about the health benefits of the plum-like fruit – such as its power to combat diabetes – you begin to appreciate that the restaurant is actually extending this two-month pleasure to a year-round one.
The menu currently has sixty items. It’s only, we are told, in its second trimester. While we could do with much less, this more-and-more menu firmly supports the cliché that Indians need choice, and lots of it. Happily from what we overhear, public opinion will always incline to the Andhra side of things; there is plenty of seafood, and that’s here to stay. However, it isn’t an Andhra dish that gets everyone around here salivating, but something called the “bharwan gucci” – a dish that could be a designer brand, just like it sounds. Essentially morels topped with truffle oil, it has a kind of kiss-like taste that wants you to get quickly to second base, in the form of a double order.
The good food is endless – the make-out-in-your-mouth Gucci is followed by a succulent ratali ki tikki, which makes all of us at the table think about sweet potatoes in a whole new way.
The good food is endless – the make-out-in-your-mouth Gucci is followed by a succulent ratali ki tikki, which makes all of us at the table think about sweet potatoes in a whole new way. The main courses all rate well above board, especially the meen pollitchatu and the Jamun butter chicken, a preparation the wait staff says is made to the management’s specific tastes. Luckily, being not too sweet and not too creamy, it matches ours. Drowning these bites with appam, coated with swishes of daab chingri, is a kind of euphoric experience, and you may catch yourself inadvertantly talking about the free-size goodness of India; expect big, sweeping generalizations to match the size of your bites.
And while everything is delightful, one thing is far from it, and this is weirdly enough what for us, makes Jamun more memorable than the good old decadent mehendi, or another nice Lodi picnic. It’s the Assamese Pork Curry.
While this dish deserves a little BPB story to itself, its firm role on the menu – despite a taste many diners may find close to offensive – is worth talking about. The waitstaff, upon discussing our first-bite frowns, assure us that we’re not alone in our discomfort because apparently, people can’t hack its bitter, overpowering, stay-with-you for ages taste. We hear that some who can like it, or pretend to, say it’s all about the acquired taste. But more conceptually, and to the kitchen’s credit, its not modified to North Indian tastes. There’s no alteration of the original, no softening to a Delhi bias.
While for many eaters this may be a point to lightly nod at, for us, this is what makes Jamun a winner, opposed to the other dozens of fun, pan-Indian restaurants that inevitably Punjabify themselves. For this, we’re happy to stain our hands and mouths with a Jamun-colored hue that outlasts the season, beyond the temporality of Pantone.
Getting there: Jamun, 17, main market, Lodi Colony. A meal for two with a round of drinks costs around Rs 4000.
Accessibility: The restaurant is wheelchair-accessible.
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