Culinary fusion gets an upgrade with singular flavors and elegant ambiance nestled in the heart of Midtown.
By Mike Fleming
Until now, you may have only heard the phrase ‘Jai Ho’ in the Bollywood-inspired theme from Slumdog Millionaire. Now with the opening of Jai Ho Kitchen & Bar steps from the Belt Line and Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta has something new to sing about.
Translated roughly as ‘Hallelujah!’ or ‘Hail!’ the name is fitting for Midtown diners, who have plenty to celebrate based on our recent experience. That celebratory feeling starts the moment you step into the warm-tone décor contrasting a lush green view through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Hot off a March opening of rave reviews, Jai Ho sits in the old Madre + Mason spot across from One Midtown Kitchen adjacent to Piedmont Park. If you already like the organic produce and other market-fresh foods from the local Savi Provisions chain, take heart that its owner Paul Nair, and his attention to quality, is in charge here as well.
With all the ingredients for excellence in place, the real excitement begins when you see what Chefs Anish Nair and Vijeesh Parayil have in store: Mash-ups of French and Indian foods for dishes you have to try to believe. From extremely vegetarian and vegan-friendly courses to meat dishes, the results are stellar.
I couldn’t decide on a starter and requested a super-sampler of my choosing, which the friendly staff graciously indulged for an upcharge. Each bite was better than the last and worth every penny. Try the pakora shoestring vegetables battered in chickpea flour and sinfully fried, and don’t miss the classic Samosa pastries filled with spiced lamb.
As good as the appetizers are, Jai Ho’s entrees are where the French-Indian fusion blossoms to its full potential. Take the classic French mother sauce Espagnole – rich, brown, velvety and almost heavenly enough to eat with a spoon. Jai Ho spikes it with coriander, cumin and cardamom for an all-new flavor that turns chicken – or lamb, or shrimp – nothing short of addictive.
Veggie lovers will find a welcome plethora of choices, including five entrees that are 100 percent vegan. I splurged on a full order of Vegetable Vindaloo that was delightfully tangy, but the restaurant’s menu for meat lovers shines brightest. Choose your chicken, lamb, shrimp or goat under a sauce to please fans of tomato-spice, ginger-herb, creamy cashew, or peppery onion. The Chicken Tikka is as flavorful and tender as I’ve ever had.
As the taste sensations begin to skyrocket, it’s not lost on me that cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and pepper – all featured heavily on this menu – are ancient male aphrodisiacs. Come to think of it, the male couples in my vicinity did seem to be enjoying date night.
With more than enough to eat, my inner fat kid allowed an order of biryani. You can judge an Indian restaurant on its ability to perfect this simple classic, so I justified my gluttony with a doggie bag and a chance to review the dish. The goat version at Jai Ho is sublime.
At this point, Indian food lovers are thinking, “What about the bread?” As a carb-o-holic who has been known to binge on evil starches, I’ve saved the best for last. Eight choices, including five kinds of naan, are worth the extra bread, pun intended. The garlic and rosemary versions were great with my meal, and I decided to try the one with nuts and raisins and call it dessert.
The temptations of this new Midtown gem may send you in a Midtown gym, but it’s worth the extra cardio. Everyone join me in saying Jai Ho! For Jai Ho.
Jai Ho Indian Kitchen & Bar
560 Dutch Valley Rd NE