Being a Delhite, at some point or the other we have all heard of, if not been to the Jama Masjid road where Delhi's best Mughlai foods are famed to have originated. The stories about the food from this place have been told and retold to the point that they have become fabled and are now perhaps engraved forever in the top ten places to eat in Delhi. The tales about these places are never ending, and in a quest to find any sort of credibility in their ridiculous popularity, I paid a visit to one of the most frequented restaurants in Jama Masjid; AlJawahar.
Jama Masjid is a pretty famous landmark among Delhiites, with the mosque being a central point of Old Delhi. Situated off the Netaji Subash Marg and located west of Red Fort, the way towards AlJawahar is through the street directly opposite Jama Masjid's gate no. 1. Entering into the street, which remains busy be it 12 in the afternoon or 1 o'clock at night, the big red board of AlJawahar immediately comes into focus. Perhaps one of the main reasons why Al- Jawahar continues to be held so high among us Delhiites is that it remains open so late into the night, giving us foodies an option to gorge at during our night time prowls.
Entering into the restaurant, you are led down to a lower basement sort of area where the seating arrangements are provided for the customers. As you wait for someone to come and take your order, the realisation dawns on you that although these restaurants have now spread out in chains, this is perhaps the place where it all started; the origin of serving Mughlai food. This could perhaps be where Akbar's chef prepared him his sheermals, or may be where Noor Jahan was impressed by their soft nihari rotis. Sitting here and wondering about all the tales that could be true, you can't but feel that this is as vintage as it gets.
After you give in your order, the service provided felt as sometimes good, sometimes ok, and sometimes downright neglected. But once the food is served, all you can do is let go of all restraints and dive in.
The taste was what you can expect from a typical Mughlai restaurant, rich in flavour and scaring the wits out of any health conscious person, as there was oil visibly floating in their gravies. The chicken burra, supposedly a Mughlai speciality, was a bit of a disappointment, as we found it lacklustre in its flavour and dry in taste. The khameeri roti (which is basically tandoori roti with a few mughlai tweaks) too tasted really good when hot and soft, but given the general size and the thickness of the dough used, that didn't last long. And once gone cold it becomes more of a task than a treat to bite into them.
The chicken curry which we ordered was one of simple preparation, but making it extravagant beats the purpose of a chicken curry. The meat was succulent, and juicy with two good pieces served. People with a taste for spicier food would probably find the chicken jahangiri more suited to their palate, for it looked more sumptuous and had more flavours added to it. Next up came the mutton qorma, and we all had high expectations regarding this dish. Although the food preparation was good, with the gravy rich in oil and flavour, what was disappointing was a lack of a better piece served up front. It felt like there were no more pieces to dive into after just three or four bites, and that left us feeling somewhat unfulfilled.
Any outing into a Mughlai restaurant is incomplete without their customary dessert firni, which, I felt, again lived up to all expectations. A simple kheer prepared from milk and rice, it was sweet and satisfying, what a traditional dessert is all about. All in all the food was not bad, but you are left feeling slightly disappointed, having perhaps not been served with anything "extraordinarily"
The price at which their food is offered seemed high, and a hearty meal from Al Jawahar would cost you around 300-350 per person. The best thing I found about this place was not it's food, but the fact that it remained open till late at night. Overrated and a general lack of enthusiasm for any sort of improvement in their food summed up the experience of my visit to this place.