The moveable feast : Getting into tasteful Jeans
A walk away from Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is a food haven, Jeans, that is bright, breezy, open and colourful. In an earlier time the large hanging jeans, the guitars, the posters would have lent it the description ‘pop art’, and Gagan Pradhan who owns Jeans, has the taste to know his décor gurus like Andy Wahrol and his menu (which amongst a host of items) has Indian food for the Nepali palate which makes it a hang out.
Said manager Nabin Gurung, late of Dubai, “We have 48 tables and they are full of teenagers who are repeat customers.”
The Kothays (fried momos) vegetable and chicken had my friend John Child saying that the wraps were amongst the best he had; and another friend Alexander said the vegetarian fillings were creamy and the achar or sauce made from til, tomatoes and masalas was unusual.
Of the Kadhai delicacies Indian maestro Jiggs Kalra says, “Originally there were only two Kadhai delicacies — Kadhai Murgh (chicken) and Kadhai Gosht (goat or lamb) — popular in Peshawar and West Punjab, both now provinces of Pakistan. Kadhai delicacies are cooked in a thick tomato-based masala and finished with Kasoori methi and garam masala.” Jeans’s Kadhai meat had a thick gravy with a distinct onion taste with undertones of ginger made rich with cream and butter. The flavour lingered going from a definite taste to becoming a mellow memory.
Food writers have said of Saag paneer “this recipe has spinach, tomatoes and paneer in a smooth pureed version served in many restaurants”. Jeans added magic so that the Saag paneer was smokey, light and tasted of fresh spinach. Rameshwor Karki, Suman and Navraj brought on the Chicken tikka which Kalra says, “makes a great cocktail snack” and the great Todar Mal, Tandoori Chef par excellence says,
“Kebabs aren’t always cooked in a tandoor and their success depends on how long the meat is kept for marination.”
The Jeans Tikka morsels had tandoori spices with an accent of lemon which made for a new taste.
And new too was the presentation of the Reshami kebab brilliantly presented in a caramel sugar web underneath which the marinated kebabs had a crisp outer layer of cashew paste, gingers, onions, cumin powder and garam masala. The kebab has to be tender and Jeans saw to it that it melted with the slightest of chewing.
According to writer Camellia Panjabi, Rogan Josh comes from the word Rogan which means meat fat in Kashmir and Josh which literally means heat. The dish gets its heat from the use of body heat-inducing spices like cardamom, javitri or mace, coriander and fennel powder tempered with dahi or yoghurt and a little water. At Jeans it seemed they further adapted the dish for Nepal with tomatoes and onions. Delicious.
The Alu Dum Kashmiri was a special Jeans’s interpretation. The potatoes are classically cooked slowly but then Jeans uses a white curry of another Kashmiri dish — lamb cooked in milk. Says Camellia Panjabi, “This is one of the few curries in which no chillies, ginger and garlic are used; it is fragment with a hint of sweetness.” In Jeans Alu Dum Kashmiri is made sweeter with the use of preserved cherries. It is as wonderful to eat as it is to look at.
Jeans also serves the most utterly butterly Dal Makhani and the taste of butter lingers into the Durbar Square past the dessert counters. One wonders what king Pratap Malla, who loved Indian food and who lived almost next door to Jeans, would have said? He would probably have applauded. Call 4221324.