I normally wait until a restaurant has had time to bed in before I review it so as to give it time to iron out any glitches and to get the menu right so when I was asked to review Jah Jyot Punjabi Street Food in Assembly Underground I was a bit wary.
It was pointed out that whilst the venue is new, the eatery has been trading for some time now in a peripatetic form. The business was started in Horsham, West Sussex and has been selling North Indian food at markets and festivals, and even did a stint at Trinity Kitchen when I had the good fortune to sample their wares. On that night, I concentrated on the venison vendor and only had a small sample from Jah Jyot, so this was my chance to sample the food properly.
Although Jah Jyot is based on Punjabi food from the North of India, other subcontinental styles have been incorporated to create a kind of fusion. The food covers everything from carnivore to vegan, so all tastes are catered for.
I decided to sample the Thali at £10 which gives a taste of five dishes plus rice and a chapatti. I was given a choice of lamb or vegetable samosa and opted for the former, which is a speciality of the house, and rightly so. The filling and pastry were sublime. I must make it plain that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a vegetarian. Let me also add that I never will be but I absolutely adore chickpeas. The ones which were presented in this thali were stupendous. They had been cooked with tamarind and lemon, thus giving a sweet and sour taste the like of which I have never come across before. Having said that, I think that a large portion might have been a bit rich for my taste, but they are only meant as an accompaniment so that was great.The black beans were not too far behind, being what I imagine to be Punjabi comfort food, mellow and satisfying. The chicken fell apart at the touch of my wooden fork and the mild curry sauce in which it was served complimented rather than overpowered it. Finally, there was an innocent portion of pickle which punched well above its weight in the taste stakes and freshened up the whole taste experience. The chapatti and saffron and cumin rice were just as you would expect. I have to say that this was a real treat.
When I was served the dish I was pointed in the direction of four small bowls which held chillies and further pickles from which to help myself. I eschewed these as I wanted to experience the unadulterated taste of what the chef had produced. I doubt that they could have improved it.
I finished my meal and went to the counter to have a chat with the organisation’s Head Chef, Adam, and Manager, Sally. Whilst I was there one of the snacks was being prepared for another customer, a Chicken Tikka Chapatti Wrap described as ‘Succulent marinated Sussex chicken on a bed of cumin and saffron infused rice with tamarind and raita before being wrapped in a fenugreek chapatti.’ Not bad for £6 from a street food stall. They do a bigger version in a naan if required.
During our chat, Adam told me about the whirlwind of events which had happened in the past few months, during which time they won the Sussex Food and Drink Award 2017. This led to their progression to the British Street Food Awards in Manchester where they won The People’s Choice title along with Best Vegetarian. This in turn meant that they qualified for the newly introduced European Finals in Berlin and being crowned European Street Food Champions of 2018. I never asked where the World Championships were but it must be worth investing a couple of bob on them down the bookies.
Because of the ethos of the business and the fact that they obviously want repeat business, Adam said that they are willing to cater for customers’ individual tastes, so should you want to come back on Friday, say, with a vegan friend, he promises to put something suitable on the menu. The menu changes every couple of days anyway, so becoming bored with the same thing is not very likely.
Another thing in its favour is that, should you fancy a beer with your meal, there is a bar round the back with 50 ale taps. I always thought that you went in an upward direction to get to heaven, not down a flight of steps into an underground chamber.