Al Jawahar needs no introduction. A prominent place on the Jama Masjid or Old Delhi Food circuit, it has been serving Mughlai dishes for ages. Rumor has it that this place is named after the first Prime Minister of independent India, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru who used to visit this place frequently. Most of the time, Al Jawahar has remained in the shadow of the more popular and big daddy of all, Karim’s. Karim’s has over the years expanded into numerous branches while Al Jawahar has remained as it is, timeless. While both serve almost the same menu, we will inevitably be drawn into a comparison between the two. Each has its own dedicated fan following. I say, Al Jawahar has the edge.
Location of Al Jawahar
Al Jawahar restaurant is located on the Matia Mahal road. It is conveniently situated at the beginning of the road at Gate No 1 of Jama Masjid. It is not easy to miss this one. A tandoor and large size metal cooking vessels dominate the entrance. There is also another restaurant by the name Old Jawahar, but thats a different place.
How to reach Al Jawahar
Reaching Al Jawahar in your own vehicle is possible. There are two possibilities, one if you are reaching in the morning at about 7 am when the place opens and the other is evening time. Morning time, since the shops are not open, you can go right upto the restaurant and park your vehicle anywhere, but evening time, you need to leave your vehicle behind at the parking at Meena Bazar and take a small walk to Al Jawahar.
To avoid driving in the maddening traffic, you can take the metro. But beware, metro is nowadays crowded all the time. You can get down at Chawri Bazar and take a shared e Rickshaw from there. You can also reach this place from Chandni Chowk metro station. Both these places are walking distance to Jama Masjid, but this place is very crowded and congested and not so easy to walk around with the traffic.
About the restaurant
Al Jawahar has two floors of seating, with the top floor for families. Though it is air conditioned, it is not closed and hence dont expect the place to be chilled, but just comfortable. There is a large central table on the top floor to accommodate large families. Other tables are in the configuration of six or four.
Smartly dressed waiters are available all around. They are quick to respond and will guide you well through the menu. Service wise you wont find any problem here.
About the menu and the food at Al Jawahar
You have to be careful about what you are ordering and when. Mutton Nihari and Paya Soup is their signature dish, but it is only available in the morning. It will get over by 10 am so you need to hurry. Mutton Nihari is a specially prepared dish which is cooked over a slow flame overnight and hence ready only in the morning. Because of this the juices of the bone and marrow seeps in the curry and gives it the rich taste so loved by everyone. The masala mix which is used from preparing Mutton Nihari is a closely guarded secret and it has more ingredients than the other dishes.
Other meat dishes like Mutton Korma or Mutton Stew get the same care and treatment. Meat is of top quality and cooked well. Same is true for chicken. For starters there is range of choice between tandoor and kebabs. You can also try the Mutton Burra, another dish with good taste.
In the bread or roti section, note that Tandoori Roti is a bit different. It is actually the khamiri roti or sweet roti and huge in size. Other option is rumali roti and Sheer Maal. Vegetarian options are also available, though a bit limited.
Food at Al Jawahar is all about rich curry and great taste. Food is loaded with oil, but dont get turned down by it. Remember to ask your waiter for recommendations and the time it will take to cook each dish and so on. Please be patient as it sometimes will take time to bring out your food.