When we met Farrokh Khambata a year-and-half ago, it was a day before he launched SoBo’s much-loved Joss in Santacruz. The ever-smiling restaurateur exuded nervous excitement. When we met him at Amadeus last week for a chat, we noticed a similar energy. “I am always excited before a launch. This time, I am taking my first international step in Dubai,” he said, reclining in a chair at the NCPA restaurant, Nariman Point.
This July, Khambata will launch Jaan, a progressive Indian restaurant in Dubai’s Down Town, where the Burj Khalifa stands. “The 6,200-square-feet tapas bar sits on the 31st floor pent house of Sofitel Hotel. On one side, you can see the entire Dubai coastline and on the other, the stunning Burj Khalifa and its water fountain,” says the chef ordering ‘something cool for the garmi.’
To test the waters, he moved into an apartment in Dubai this January. “I spent the first three months working with the awesome ingredients Dubai has to offer. I experimented with Grade 8 Japanese Wagyu from Australia, lamb from the Coonawarra region in Australia, duck from Ireland, white truffle from Italy, Omani lobsters, Brazilian mangoes and even snails,” says Khambata, adding, “I always strive to reinvent the wheel.”
The menu, which is in the final stages of locking, has a scorpion king roll in Bengali masala, soft shell crabs with leaf tadka and a salmon and Kejriwal egg roll. “I put to use my 15 years’ of expertise as an Indian and Asian chef,” says Khambata, who calls this project one of his toughest challenges. “I didn’t have a base there, so I had to set up a company, get clearances. Thankfully it’s all online and streamlined. Dubai is an unforgiving city if your product is bad. The city pits you against the best.”
“People in Dubai follow a carnivorous diet, and have a refined taste of high-quality meat. The Indian food scene is almost non-existent, that’s why I chose Indian progressive,” says Khambata, showing us a rendered image of the space. A graffiti wall takes our fancy. “I saw this on the Berlin Wall in Germany and bought the rights to reprint it.”
After Dubai, his next stops will be London, Hong Kong and Singapore. Khambata has a few plans for Mumbai too. “In the next two years, I am looking at launching new spaces in Lower Parel, BKC and South Mumbai. Something will come up in Delhi too.”
And, for his India plans, for the first time, Khambata is going the funding way. “That is the only way ahead; we are looking for the right partners in India. Currently, a lot less skill is applied to opening restaurants in India,” says Khambata, comparing it to the realty market five years ago. “First, there were five good builders. Today, we have 5,000. Similarly, Mumbai had barely 10 good restaurateurs 10 years ago.
“The easiest way to run a restaurant is to run a bar with cheap alcohol, but it is a temporary phase. We are going through a saturation phase like London did 20 years ago. For now, I want to create a landmark in Dubai, like Joss did in Mumbai.”
By Phorum Dalal