A plateful of Assam

Food plays a vital role in our jobs. As much as one would envy features writers and food bloggers as they go from restaurant to restaurant trying out new dishes and cuisines - it is also one of the toughest jobs on the planet. It is very tough to critique food and to do it right. I try to answer simple questions when I try something and some place new. Did I like eating it/there? Will I recommend it to someone? Will I go eat there again? Is it value for money?

Thoughts like these (and random others) had my head clogged as I let my friends drag me to Assam Bhawan to eat at Jakoi. ‘I want to try something new!’ I had whined when they asked me for the umpteenth time - ‘Where should we go to eat?’

While I had eaten at Andhra Bhavan and Bengal Bhavan, Assam Bhawan’s Jakoi is a place I had
heard of many times but had not managed to ever go there. I expected a clean and clinical canteen type atmosphere and was pleased to the hilt to find a cosy restaurant in warm shades of red and walls adorned with Gamosas and pictures of well known celebrities from Assam. Jakoi has an outdoor sitting arrangement as well, but the humidity had us sticking to the air-conditioned interiors.  

My friends who had eaten there earlier picked the Non-Veg Parampara Thali that comes with two types of fish, a duck curry (one can also opt for chicken instead of duck), two types of dal, aloo pitika (mashed potato), a dish of potatoes and okhra and rice. Priced at Rs 475 (without taxes) one serving of the thali is more than enough for one person, all you might need is another serving of rice to polish off all the little bowls of food.

The dal and the vegetables tasted like good home-cooked food and that is perhaps a good thing when one is trying out authentic cuisines. Added flavours that are not originally a part of the recipe misleads people who have trooped in to try something robust and real. The duck curry was nicely flavoured but personally I could not quite differentiate between the chicken I had ordered and the duck that came with the thali. And I don’t mean flavours.

Since I am not a great fish eater, I ordered for a Bhoot Jolokiya Chicken and the Kharisa Rice (bamboo shoot rice). The chicken was supposed to be dangerously spicy, that is the story Bhoot Jolokiya comes with (it is supposed to be one of the hottest chilies in the world) - but curry they served was nothing any decent spicy food lover cannot handle. If you are to order it try it with plain steamed rice to bring out the flavours.

The thali comes with a dessert of cream, aakhoi and liquid jaggery. The best way to eat it is to mix them all together and let the mild sweetness of the cream mix with the heavier one of the jaggery and soak into the aakhoi. This, mind you, is an acquired taste. After a heavy full meal you might crave for something more regular like gulab jamun or rasgulla (for the want of better examples!).
As we waited for the bill we were given a platter of betel leaves, betel nuts and saunf a long with a special masala. You can make your own little paan there if you please.

With three of us eating there, the bill came to Rs 2000 (without taxes). While it is not a bad amount assuming we were all stuffed to the t, the chicken and the rice I had ordered separately came to about Rs 1000 while two thalis added in the rest. The ala-carte menu at Jakoi is clearly more expensive than their thalis - no wonder almost every other diner at Jakoi that night was seen happily digging into thalis.

The service is quite good and the food was satisfying. But I was a little disappointed with the stark difference in prices between the thalis and the ala-carte dishes. We are surely going to head back again and if you have not tried this place already - we suggest you head over too!
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