GOVINDA’S: A VEGETARIAN’S PARADISE

Most (if not every) Indians who have moved to Dubai will always seek out a restaurant they are familiar with from their home city. For a Bombayite like me, Govinda’s in Karama was one such restaurant – it served Indian and Indian-Chinese fare I was familiar with. But it was only on my recent invitation to review Govinda’s in Jumeirah that I learned that the Govinda’s in Bombay and Dubai are completely unrelated although they both share the same food philosophy of ‘sattvic’ diet, which excludes garlic and onions, among other things. To be fair to the Dubai eateries I had totally missed reading the ‘my’ in front of Govinda’s – but honestly who really does read the fine print?

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So what is sattvic food? Sattvic diet is a diet based on foods in Ayurveda and Yoga literature whose basis is the concept of ahimsa (non-harming). A sattvic diet avoids any foods that involves killing or harming of animals, encouraging intake of foods grown harmoniously with nature, and foods that are ripened and grown naturally. NOTE: This is a 100% vegetarian restaurant.

Now that we have the food philosophy out of the way, lets get down to the restaurant and food. I loved the airy feel of the restaurant – its light coloured walls and natural light streaming in offered a relaxing vibe. The large painting of Krishna and Radha on a swing takes up the prime visual element while the ceiling has taken the peacock feather element and subtly merged it (reminded me a bit of the Indian International Airport).

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We were the first ones at the restaurant and being a Tuesday, I thought it would go relatively vacant – how naive of me!!! By the time 1pm ticked in, the place had started filling up with office goers and families out for the quick bite. Quite a few choose for the thali option which at AED38 is total value for money (on Thursday – Saturday the thali is AED 42).

When it came to the food, I got confused with the choices. The Govinda’s at Jumeirah serves Indian and Italian (while the Karama one serves Indian and Chinese) – so that is two menus. Then you go into specialized menus – Vegan, Healthy, Gluten Free, Oil Free – so if you fall into one of the dietary categories, your choice is simplified. But for someone like me, who is willing to try it all (in the name of a fair review) and the fact that we were invited to try the food, I left it to Srikanth to surprise us.

We started with our fresh fruit juice – pomegranate for my friend and sweet lime (mosambi) for me. We strictly asked for no added sugar or ice – so what we got was pure unaldrated freshly squeezed juice. The perfect beginning.

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NOTE: Before I start on the food review section, I must share with you that I had insisted that we be served lesser portions so we could try more – so the quantities in some of these photos might be misleading.

We then got a plate of Pani Puri Shooters. For the uninitiated, it’s a common street snack in India which goes by different names depending on which part of the country you are in – if you are in Calcutta you would call it Phuchhka, in Delhi you would call it Golgappa and in Bombay you would call it Pani Puri (basically you could figure out where someone is from simply by what they call this). It consists of a round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavored water (pani – often spicy), tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas (of course variations come into play here). At Govinda’s we were offered two versions of the Pani Puri Shooters – one with the spicy water and the other with guava juice (for those who cannot take the spice). Honestly I was a bit skeptical of the guava juice version, but keeping my mind neutral I tried it – and although the taste that hits you first is totally different to what you are used to, the more  chewed, the more I liked it.

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Then came the starters – one Indian and one Italian.

Spinach Cheese Dip served with cripy toast was simply delicious. I could have licked the bowl clean (but a public place, a reputation to uphold and my mannered upbringing made me refrain). img_5966

The Moti Kabab which was a mixed vegetable kabab stuffed with sweet corn and cheese and cooked in a tandoor was spot on – and don’t get me started on the green chutney. A great combination. img_5968

For main course, we got to try:

Kadai Baby Corn

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Mirchi Ka Salan (Chilli stuffed with potato in a spinach gravy)

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Dal Fry

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Pudina Naan and Mata Ji Paratha

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Pasta Del Capra (Penne in creamy sauce with fresh broccoli, tomatoes, parsley, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and chilli pepper).

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We enjoyed all the Indian mains we were served especially the Mirchi Ka Salan and the Dal Fry. On the Italian main, let me warn you that it is a very Indian tasting Italian dish – so if you are looking for the subtlety of flavours of a creamy sauce, this is not for you.

With no space left for dessert, but on Srikanth’s insistence we each had a scoop of their freshly made in-house ice cream. I settled for the chocolate chip while my friend had the sitafal (custard apple). I would recommend you try their fruit flavoured ice creams rather than the run of the mill flavours (vanilla, chocolate etc.).

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So what was my overall take on the food? For all the vegetarians out there who have dietary requirements (Vegan, Gluten Free, Healthy, Oil Free) – this place is a must visit. I would focus more on the Indian menu (although that spinach cheese dip was simply superb). In terms of pricing, this place is value for money. Any doubts about this restaurant and its food were put to rest, when I heard one of the families, while walking out, turn to each other and say, “the food was really good.” (I think they had the thali)

DISCLOSURE: To be honest and fair I must inform you that I was invited to review Govinda’s at Jumeirah in exchange for a complimentary meal. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are truly my own.

Location: Govinda’s, Umm Suqeim 2, Beach Road; Tel: +971 4 321 1884 or +971 50 564 9227 Open from 12 noon – 3.30pm for lunch; and from 7 pm – 12.30 am for dinner   

Also Behind Regent Palace Hotel, Opposite BurJuman Centre, Street 4A, Al Karama, Dubai Tel: +971 4 453 5259

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