Delightful Indian vegetarian fare in the JBR Walk, that will leave even meat-eaters wanting more...
|Subzi humjoli (r) & dhal makni (l) with naan|
It’s been a while since I’ve eaten out for Indian, and being invited by Brand Terminus to try out Sukh Sagar my expectations are high. As much as I enjoy a good chicken curry, I am secretly looking forward to trying out dishes from their vegetarian only menu - I love paneer, I love thick lentil curries, and to be honest I just love anything veg. The husband on the other hand would only choose to dine out at a vegetarian establishment if it was the last choice on a list. Saying that, as we set off for Sukh Sagar we conclude that if he was to choose any type of vegetarian cuisine then Indian would most probably be it!
Sukh Sagar has a number of branches in Dubai, and we visit the JBR one. Located right opposite the Hilton and with The Beach across the road for ease of parking, we eventually get there after a multitude of wrong turns due to Marina area road works. With both upstairs and downstairs seating to choose from, we are seated near the entrance with prime view of the teppanyaki dosa station (yes you heard right, more on that later on!)
The origins of Sukh Sagar start in India itself, when the first branch opened back in 1962. Since then they have grown to more than 20 branches across the country, becoming one of India’s best known and loved vegetarian restaurant chain. There are four branches in Dubai, including one in Karama and a central kitchen. The JBR branch is decidedly more quiet, although enjoyably so. Throughout the evening we see mostly Indian families and groups arriving, which is always a good sign. For first impressions I am slightly surprised by how simple the interior is, as design and aesthetics have not been made much of a focus here. Still, I encouragingly hope that what the atmosphere lacks in, will be made up for by the food, and let’s just say it definitely doesn’t disappoint…
|Dahi Batata Puri|
Before even choosing our starters, we are presented with a plate of paani puri – puffed flour semolina discs filled with spiced moong, potatoes and chilled lemon minted water. Indian street snacks like these are an absolute favourite of mine, and as we eat and leaf through the mammoth menu, my eyes light up at the variety and choice. We decide to order a kebab sharing platter (veg of course) for starters. With paneer tikka, tandoori mushrooms, marinated cauliflower and potatoes, and hara bhara kebabs all served with a mint dipping sauce, it’s a feast for the eyes. Everything is cooked delightfully, and I find there is nothing I can fault. The husband absolutely loves how the mushrooms cleverly remind him of barbecued fatty beef! We also order another favourite street snack, the dahi batata puri - semolina discs this time filled with potatoes, topped with yoghurt, drizzled sweet chutney and lots of crispy fried flour noodles. By this time I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve already shot wide-eyed gestures of appreciation to the husband! However I do order the chilli cheese toast based on an online recommendation, expecting something original, and sadly getting something more closer to what is essentially just spicy pizza slices. Saying that I probably would have overlooked this dish, if I hadn’t been eager to order based on the suggestion.
As we chat to the head chef we learn how the restaurant prides itself on keeping every recipe intact in all its branches, whilst also accommodating to the needs of religious and health requirements, for example by ensuring a meal ordered by a Jain customer doesn’t have potatoes or onion, or offering more health friendly options.
|Kebab sharing platter|
Up next is an opportunity to sample the teppenyaki dosa station. As we settle over at the bar-top like counter, the dosa chef proceeds to pour small rounds of batter over a hot teppenyaki style stove. The idea is to be served a variety of mini dosa’s (a traditional South Indian style crepe made with rice and lentils) and uttapam’s (a thicker version of the dosa) with your choice of fillings and toppings as they are cooked live – just as you would encounter at a Japanese teppenyaki. Not only can you can repeat a dosa but you can also have as many as you like. This is an innovation of Sukh Sagar, only seen at the JBR branch and certainly an experience you are unlikely to encounter at any other Indian restauarant. We tried the sada, masala, mysore masala, pav bhaji, Manchurian, rava sada, and spinach and cheese dosa’s before declaring our fills worth, but there were upto eighteen varieties including a chocolate version to end with. A highlight was the ragi dosa, made with millet – a delightfully nutty grain which aids weight-loss.
Back to our seated tables, we decide we have to order a dish or two to sample the more heavier mains. We went with a classic dal makhni which is popular all over India. The black lentils had been cooked overnight on a clay oven, and then combined with Indian herbs and clarified butter to make a creamy and filling dish - one of the best versions I’ve had. We also tried the subzi humjoli, a combination of both a creamy tomato and spinach gravy served with two vegetable koftas. This was equally good, and I loved the play of both flavours together with the veggie but meaty kofta balls. We mopped both these curries up with warm buttered naan bread – always good! Last of all we made sure to try the pav bhaji, a speciality of Bombay street food, known for its warming and comforting connotations. The thick chunky bhaji is made up of a variety of finely chopped or pureed vegetables cooked with spices including masala, cumin and turmeric, and is served alongside pav, small bread buns. I have to admit it was the first time I had knowingly eaten phav bhaji and I could see why this has become a much loved meal for those on the go. What I also liked is how we could choose to eat the bhaji with either white or wholemeal pav buns. The buns were soft, and made the perfect tool for mopping up the warm vegetable curry.
We washed our meals down with fresh mixed juices – ginger lime watermelon for my husband, and carrot beetroot for myself. We only just about managed a bite or two of some traditional gulab jamun and ras malai desserts to end our meal, but I think if I were to visit in the future I would skip the desserts altogether as the mains were just so filling and satisfying by themselves.
Sukh Sagar takes inspiration from both North and South classic Indian food, and here is absolutely everything you can imagine from Indian vegetarian fare on the menu. From crispy dosas, to lentil curries, street food to Chinese inspired dishes, and vegetarian barbecue there is literally something to everyone’s taste and palette. We did actively steer away from the International style dishes. However bar the chilli cheese toast, I enjoyed every meal whether recommended to us or individually chosen.
None of the meals were overly spicy, whilst the majority only had a slight hint, and we were asked on our preference accordingly. Everything was flavourful, and the quality was definitely more than notable. You won’t find curries doused in lots of unnecessary oil here. The value for money too is highly reasonable. Every dish we ordered was priced at between 20 to 40 AED, with the most expensive being the teppanyaki dosa station. Still for 50 AED, you can eat as much as you want, even if we did only manage eight mini dosas on top of everything else! Waiters were very helpful and our food arrived quickly too. It’s safe to say I now have a bigger appreciation for vegetarian Indian cuisine, and my meat-loving husband definitely has much bigger appetite for it too!
|Watermelon Ginger Honey Lime juice|