Words: Patricia Podorsek Photos: Rich Callahan
“Dressed to the nines” is the phrase that pops into my head as I open the door to the newly opened Jhann restaurant in Damansara. This Northern Indian-inspired bistro is stylish and so well-appointed that I’m practically expecting a runway down the centre of the room! Black and white dominate the interior landscape, with splashes of crimson and turquoise across the canvas. Original artwork lends accessory, with sparkles of glass and crystal. My favourite is the mismatched chairs, each intentionally selected to curate a very chic decor that permeates the room.
Jhann’s menu is designed to take the flavours of traditional northern-Indian cuisine and transform them into modernized classics. Game for a new adventure, we are pleased to get started with a set of interesting signature cocktails that play to this idea. The Kizmet (RM43) arrives in green sashay, powered by gin laced with mint chutney and threaded with rosemary. Aromatic and sweet, the chutney adds a welcome tang.
Next, we try the Spiced Jhann (RM52), a delicious blend of Indian single malt with spiced chai. With a burnt cinnamon stick to light up the bouquet, a little chilli on the finish, and spicy all through the middle, this yummy drink is warm from start to finish.
In the Rooh Afza (RM35), or “Refresher of the Soul,” we encounter rose layered upon rose, beginning with the bright colour and ending with the scented vodka. This floral variation on a Cosmopolitan is a cheery addition to the table. It would be great for guests who prefer mild and sweet cocktails.
The last of the signature cocktails takes its name from a friend called Gerald (RM43). Burnt rosemary adds an aromatic flair to the blend of gin, lime, and egg white in this sweet drink presented in a jaunty copper mug.
The parade of appetizers begins with the staple snack of papadam, uncommonly thin and crispy fresh this afternoon. Mint chutney is ready to adorn the crisps, portioned out from an adorable little dropper. We all take turns and marvel at the novelty of dropping over dipping.
Indian street food is best captured in the Yogurt Papdi Chat (RM24). Crispy strips of bread act as the spoon for us to scoop up the goodness of potatoes, onion and pomegranate from the little bowl. Yoghurt and chutney add tang and a bit of earthiness comes from the fresh coriander on top.
Sailing to the table next in cute little lettuce boats is Keema (RM26), minced lamb under cover of spicy tomato sauce. Often served with bread or rice, the lettuce offers a crunchy conveyor that feels lighter and fresher, especially with a dollop of yoghurt on top to cool off the heat.
In my time spent in India, I found pakoras to be a very humble snack, potatoes or onions battered and fried in oil until crispy. Imagine my surprise, then, at the decadence of Jhann’s Soft Shell Crab Pakora (RM22), tender seafood encrusted in lovely warming spice. Adding to the richness is the bed of beetroot puree underscored by accents of star anise and the drizzle of buttermilk aioli on top. Delicious.
Rounding out the starters, we sample the Spiced Chickpeas (RM18). Similar to classic Punjabi chole, these legumes arrive lightly sauced and garnished with fresh curry leaves.
The mains are where we see the greatest evolution of Indian favourites. With dishes like the Black Mussel Curry (RM56), we find a rich coconut and turmeric gravy bathing a pile of mussels. Unusual in conception, I find the mussels provide a nice alternative to fish or prawns. The sauce is so rich, I could eat it with a spoon! Instead, I am more than happy to soak it up with some of the Truffle and Wild Mushroom Naan (RM28). This Tandoori classic bread bears a new twist, the truffle oil adding a luxurious sensation to the warm, chewy texture.
The naan comes in handy again with the Spiced Sizzling Chicken Masala (RM49). Deep streams of aromatic cardamom greet us as we dig into a warming curry spiked with loads of fresh ginger and whole spices. And again with the Curried Cauliflower (RM29), a buttery cashew gravy blanketing cauliflower that still bites freshly firm despite the immersion in the sauce.
Seafood again takes centre stage with the Tandoor Grilled Tiger Prawns (RM78). Marinated with spices and smoky from the heat, these tender prawns are served in the shell alongside a shore of saffron rice and salad. In similar seaside fashion, the Soft Shell Crab Biryani (RM49) weaves delicate threads of chilli and whole spices into the fabric of jasmine rice and the sheen of fresh seafood.
Bypassing the ever-favourite Gulab Jamun, we opt for the more unusual Tandoor Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Sorbet (RM29) and are not disappointed. Like deconstructing a pina colada, grilling the fruit deepens its intensity, and the coconut tastes fresh enough to have been picked directly off the ice cream tree! Our companion Jo calls the dessert “Addictive!” We all agree, and it disappears without a drop to spare.
Jhann KL Review
A satisfied belly softens my gaze, and as I look about the room, I find myself no less impressed by the ambience than I was when I first walked in. Jhann KL is a restaurant that comes stitched in style, both on the plate and in the room.
Reasons to visit Jhann KL: modernized Indian classics dressed in style.
6, Jalan Medan Setia 2
50490 Kuala Lumpur
+6 017 324 4323
Jhann KL Opening Hours
Daily 12:00 pm – 1:00 am.