I’ll be the first to admit that Indian cuisine never crosses my mind when it comes to eating out or ordering in. I’ve always found it too heavy or too spicy or just never known what to order. That was until I tried Chawlas ² in JLT.
The JLT branch is a franchise with the first restaurant being opened in India some 56 years ago. It’s a family run business which has been passed down three generations. Back then their signature dish; cream chicken, was the only thing they sold and they would sell it by the bucket load, literally. You had to bring your own take away containers. The rest is history.
Fast forward to 2016 and things have changed immensely. The menu has expanded as has the branches with locations in Australia, Canada and even the U.S. This branch in JLT, Dubai is small but modern with exposed brick work and light bulbs that might make one think they are in a hipster restaurant in East London. Although the vibe here is totally the opposite, a completely casual and relaxed dining environment. We are lucky enough to be greeted by a third generation Chawla himself as well as the restaurant’s owner. We are here for a BME run by the lovely Monica from doindubai.com
As we sat down with some fellow bloggers, we were offered a sweet or salty lassi to start. I opt for the sweet kind. It’s thick but enjoyable and I try not to drink it all as I need to leave space for dinner.Instead of breaking bread, we broke papadum and topped them with various sauces and spicy onions. We were allowed to enter the kitchen (hairnets and all) to see where all the magic happens. They have a traditional clay oven where all the kebabs get cooked as well boxes of multiple spices used in their dishes. The kitchen team have worked together for over 10 years so have all of the Chawlas recipes down pat.
When we sat back down we were brought some appetizers of Peshawari Tikka, Fish Irani and stuffed tandoori aloo. The Peshawari tikka is a chicken kebab stick which is cooked in the clay oven. I found the flavor to be nice but some pieces of the chicken for me were a little too undercooked.
The stuffed tandoori aloo is a potato stuffed with a mix of vegetables and cheese. The texture didn’t hold together well and I wasn’t overly fond of the flavor although the cooking method meant it was still perfectly crisp on the outside. An interesting dish to try.
The fish Irani was a master in disguise. It very much looked like chicken and I was surprised when they told me it was fish. They use Kingfish which is fleshy and was perfectly cooked. I went back for seconds and again for thirds.
When it was time for mains they brought out a bread basket full of mixed parathas, naans and rotis lathered in butter. However you can opt/ask for a naan without butter which is a lighter more health conscious version. Easier on the stomach.The 4 mains we tried were the fish curry, a paneer dhaniya adraki, a dal makhani and Chawla’s signature dish the cream chicken curry.The cream chicken curry had quite a thin consistency so we also asked for some steamed rice to enjoy it with. It has a nice subtle flavor, not too spicy with larger than expected slices of chicken breast inside.
The dal makhani was delightful and easy to eat. I soaked it up with a piece of yellow missi roti which is made from chickpea flour. The paneer was my favorite of the four as the gravy was thick and delicious, again not too spicy on the palette. The fish curry was my least favorite tasting main as the fish flavor was too overpowering for me.
There was also a kachumbar salad and a raita served with the mains which helps to balance out the spice which can be found in some of the mains.Just when you think you’ve eaten too much is usually the time the tables are cleared and the desserts arrive. Luckily for us there is just 3 kinds of dessert which are served in small ramekins for us to share. I avoided the gulab jamun as i’ve tried them before and they are too sweet for my palette. Instead I tried the kheer kesari, although found the saffron a little overpowering therefore leaving my favorite dessert of the evening to…
The moong dal halwa. A mix of moong dal, ghee, nuts, cardamon and raisins, this deliciously buttery gem was definitely a favorite of mine as well as the table guests.
If you don’t live or work in JLT, Chawlas also offer a delivery service with a minimum of 50dhs per order and a maximum of 15dhs for a delivery charge. Their menu is very affordable and if you are interested they can also provide catering for events.
NB: This blog post was sponsored by Doindubai.
Location: Lakefront, Icon 1 Building, Cluster M, JLT, Dubai
Phone: 050 850 2483