There are many Indian restaurants around Richmond but it is easy to see why ‘JAI HO’ is attractive to so many people. The place has class and has patrons of all backgrounds. It is a Friday evening, the restaurant is in full swing activity and we pause for a while to admire the simple, elegant décor of the restaurant.
As we take our seats, we order a glass of red wine first from their smart range and are pleasantly surprised how easily priced it is. Next, we let our waitress decide the menu for us.
The Entree: Indeed as the chef’s selection of different kebabs arrives sizzling on a cast-iron plate, I can’t wait to lay my hands on. The Tandoori Platter consisting of Hariyali Chicken Kebab marinated with spinach and mint, Tandoori Chicken, a signature Indian dish, Chicken Tikka which is similar to Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Paneer, Seekh Kababs and Lamb Chops, are excellent. The meats are all very tender that they just melt in the mouth. That says the owner is, because some of them such as the Hariyali Chicken are marinated for a longer period for the right texture and flavour. Accompanying the platter is a medley of salad – onions, fresh salad leaves, thinly grated cucumber and carrots. The kebabs are a pure winner in this restaurant.
The Main-Course: When the main course selection arrived on the table it looked overwhelming. There is Malai Methi Paneer, Dal Makhani, Chicken Saag and Lamb Dopiaza with butter Naan. Combined with the long-grain, perfectly cooked rice with peas, they make a sumptuous dinner. The curries are textured and weighty and leaves a very good after taste. We keep forking more pieces of the chicken and the lamb as their flavours are unique and extremely aromatic.
The Dessert: The Mango Kulfi and Gulab Jamuns served in ethnic small plates is another typical Indian dessert but the taste is one that you would find its place in any high-end restaurant.
Jai Ho was reborn a month ago when the old owners gave way to the new. They are now run by the Abbots. Even under the old owners, it had made a name for itself but now the new owners want to take them to the next level of excellence. “It was a smooth transition of business and they were nice enough to train us for a month on the operations,” says Saurabh Abbot.
There is no mystery in the name Jai Ho (glory be) but Abbott for an Indian calls for a bit of a surprise. Saurabh Abbott’s great grandparents came from a little village in a place called Abbottabad now in Pakistan, more recently it was in the news for housing the compound of Osama bin Laden. But the story goes that those days people used to name themselves after the towns or village. His great grandfather, a popular station master at the Abbottabad railway station, named himself Abbott and when he migrated to India in 1927, the name was part of his distinct identity.
It is that distinct identity that the Abbots are trying to create Jai Ho where the flavours of the east please the palate. The smell of freshly grounded spices, the use of fresh vegetables and finest cuts of meat go into creating one of the most original rustic Indian cuisines.
For the Abbots, Jai Ho is a family affair, where every member is assigned a task and attention is given to detail. The result is: a top quality service with elegant linen, fine cutlery and soft, dim lighting to create a quiet and comfortable mood. Chef Gautam Thapar, Saurabh’s brother-in- law has a strong background in hospitality having worked for one of the finest hotels and restaurants of Melbourne (Rivers group docklands , Stamford Plaza, Bay View on the Park). He is assisted by Chef Sunita Abbott, Saurabh’s mother who has more than 30 years experience in large scale cooking. The front is managed by Saurabh’s father, Sunil Abbott, who has a 35-year experience in the food and distribution industry.
You can see Sunil’s immense passion for customer service as he offers pappad to even customers who have ordered and are waiting for their takeaways. Saurabh’s wife Vivian and his sister Shraddha also assist in making customers comfortable. Jai Ho is new but run by a team of professionals, there is nothing odd about its newness. In fact, there are more than a few things you will like about this place and food is certainly one of them. In fact, one of the best in Melbourne!
By Indira Laisram.