Inventive north Indian fare


The sizzling mutton features tender, pliable pieces of mutton coated in a nuanced, delicious masala. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Walking into Jhann is like finding a diamond in the rough. The restaurant is incredibly stylish and chic, one of those cosmopolitan finds that wouldn’t look out of place in London or New York.

“That was the idea behind the decor of Jhann – for it not to look like an Indian restaurant, ” enthuses Kohinoor Kaur, the managing partner of the spanking new eatery.

Kohinoor has a background in law and was once a regular on the beauty pageant circuit – she has competed in Miss Universe Malaysia and Miss World Malaysia and even represented the country in the Miss Cosmopolitan World pageant.

She is also the person behind the trendy fittings and furniture at Jhann that includes custom-made Iranian marble tables and a monochromatic floor inspired by Kris Jenner’s home. Strategically placed foliage and gold tableware add to the air of sophistication that Kohinoor has carefully cultivated.

Del (left) and Kohinoor are both determined to drive Jhann forward with a modern take on north Indian Mughlai cuisine.Del (left) and Kohinoor are both determined to drive Jhann forward with a modern take on north Indian Mughlai cuisine.

But then this isn’t Kohinoor’s first rodeo. In fact, her family has plenty of experience in F&B, having run the Kohinoor North Indian Restaurant (named after her) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah for 14 years now. The eatery, which was the brainchild of Kohinoor’s mother Del Ghoman, serves traditional north Indian fare.

Interestingly, popular Malaysian actor Datuk Hans Isaac was a frequent customer there and subsequently became instrumental in pushing Kohinoor and her mother to open Jhann.

“He fell in love with the restaurant, so he was the one who said ‘Let’s do something in KL’, ” says Kohinoor. Hans has since also become a partner at Jhann.

But there is a world of difference between Kohinoor (the restaurant) and Jhann. While the former is a hotbed of classic north Indian Mughal style food, the latter offers experimental, progressive north Indian food.

“Some people ask me ‘Is this fusion?’ And I’m like ‘No, it’s progressive.’ So it’s basically expanding the cuisine and experimenting with different kinds of stuff, like caviar and blinis for example, ” says Kohinoor.

Expect to be taken on a journey through uncharted territory when you embark on a meal at Jhann – the surprises are aplenty and twists and turns abound everywhere.

Plump, juicy tomatoes are stuffed with different kinds of nuts in what proves to be a fresh, uplifting meal.Plump, juicy tomatoes are stuffed with different kinds of nuts in what proves to be a fresh, uplifting meal.

To start with, try the keema (RM29). Mutton keema is typically a robustly spiced minced meat meal paired with rice or naan. In this iteration, a heaping portion of keema is laid atop baby Romaine lettuce in what proves to be an inspired pairing. The keema itself is sublime – fiery, punchy and beautifully spiced while the lettuce does a great job of holding in the flavours of the keema without overpowering it or making diners feel overly full.

“The keema is my own creation – the idea is for it to be snack-sized. Because sometimes when you eat it with naan, it’s so heavy, so if you eat it with lettuce, it’s more fun, ” says Kohinoor.

Next up, indulge in the Monsoon Adjil (RM18), an interesting offering which sees rotund tomatoes stuffed with honey roasted cashews, almonds and macadamias in what turns out to be a vibrant, fun explosion of flavours and textures – from the plump tomatoes that burst upon contact to the crunchy nuts that add dimension and verve to the concoction.

The restaurant has a cosmopolitan, sophisticated feel.The restaurant has a cosmopolitan, sophisticated feel.

Perhaps the most revelatory item on the menu is the Soft Shelled Crab Pakora (RM22). Here, you’ll discover a crustacean with a crusty, crispy masala-couched exterior that yields to a tenderly juicy, succulent interior. This is one of those meals that is best described as “life-changing”. Here you were, going through life without a soft shelled crab pakora and then you try one and suddenly, life just doesn’t seem livable without it!

The Sizzling Mutton (RM52) is an equally good offering that boasts mutton coated in a rich, sumptuous masala mixture. The mutton is pliable and almost miraculously devoid of any muscular structure – it is in fact so silken soft, it almost seems to glide down the throat unaided by the act of mastication.

Who would have thought truffle and roti would go so well together?Who would have thought truffle and roti would go so well together?

If you’re after something to mop up the mutton with, the Truffle Roti (RM24) will do nicely. The naan is a soft, fluffy, doughy creation topped with Italian truffle oil, crispy garlic and creamy spinach. In this instance, the perfumed notes and opulence of the truffle really come through, enhancing every component of this meal.

For a taste of something more traditional, tuck into the eatery’s Butter Chicken (RM39) which alludes to its classic north Indian roots. Here, grilled chicken is bathed in a rich, buttery tomato based gravy that is the dictionary definition of the word “decadent”.

A few more pineapple slices would be much welcome in the dessert of grilled tandoor pineapples.A few more pineapple slices would be much welcome in the dessert of grilled tandoor pineapples.

For dessert, indulge in the Tandoor Grilled Pineapple (RM28). Paired with a coconut sorbet, this is a pleasantly tropical sweet temptation that ticks all the right boxes (although it would be nice to have a tad more pineapple).

Jhann also prides itself on having a fully-stocked cocktail bar and you would do well to try some of the tempting tipples on offer, like the Gerald (RM43) and the Kizmet (RM43). The former is a sensual offering that undulates with smoky star anise notes complemented by gin, lemon juice, vanilla syrup and egg white. It’s the alcoholic equivalent of the mysterious stranger at the bar – good-looking, enigmatic and ultimately very, very seductive.

The Kizmet meanwhile alludes to the flavours of the Indian sub-continent and features freshly made mint chutney, gin and rosemary. This happy-go-lucky drink has a refreshing, herbaceous quality guaranteed to lift spirits.

Ultimately, Kohinoor and her partners hope that people who come to Jhann end up feeling like they have experienced something different from the traditional north Indian food so ubiquitous everywhere else.

“There are so many northern Indian restaurant around the area, so I’d rather go into the progressive side of things – it’s about taking flavours and mixing them up. That’s why it’s not fine-dining; it’s fun-dining, ” she says.

Jhann KL, 6, Jalan Medan Setia 2, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 017-324 4323

Open Tuesday to Thursday: 3pm to 11pm; Friday to Saturday: 3pm to 11.30pm

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