Restaurant reviewer Alex Ross gets off the beaten track and uncovers a real gem.
Jojolapa – haven't heard of it?
Brindley Place, The Mailbox, Bull Ring – we all know where to get a slap-up meal. But where is the fun in that? To trek out of the city centre and find a hidden gem is much more satisfying, and often more rewarding. And it didn't take long to work out I was on to another one after settling down in Jojolapa – an easy five-minute walk from Birmingham Snow Hill train station.
What type of restaurant is it?
Jojolapa is a Nepali restaurant, and like the country, which is sandwiched inbetween giants China and India, the restaurant is positioned between an English chain pub and an Indian restaurant, but its smart, modern look stands out and it was not difficult to persuade me inside. The place is decorated with rich reds, dark wood and intricate Newari carvings.
Nepalese food? What is it?
Perhaps due to its locality, Nepalese foods has some strong Indian and Chinese influences and there are dishes in the menu you could find at your local Indian takeaway. But, if you are feeling brave, there are some speciality Nepalese dishes like the the steamed momo, dumplings to me and you, and the chicken Everest, Nepalese curry. Interestingly, when flicking through the main menu there is an introduction to Nepal, providing facts like 75 per cent of Nepalese work in agriculture and the country exports carpets, garments and hydroelectric power. Who could begin eating without all that?
How was the service?
Excellent. Like many people walking in, I was unsure what to expect about Nepalese food, but the two waiters could not have done any more to put me and my partner at ease, first providing us with drinks and then talking us through the main, asking what flavours we liked and trying to pick the most suitable dishes. The waiters tended to us very well – allowing us time and peace to relax, but also ensuring we were comfortable, and our drinks were filled!
What did you have to start?
Like your standard Indian, we were each given poppadoms with pickles and onions to start with before I dived into the Nepalese food, picking the chicken dumplings (£4.25), which were served with salad and two exquisite sauces, one fiery, one mild. My partner tried the Nepalese pancake called chatamari (£3.75). It came out like a folded over omelette, stuffed with vegetables and chicken – it didn't look appetising, but taking a taste I was won over.
What did you have for main?
Following the waiter's recommendation, I went for the chef's speciality, lamb rogan gosh (£10.20), asking for a decent amount of spice in it. And bang, it was good. Unlike your typical Indian dish, this oozed with flavour and the meat inside was tender and well marinated. It went down in double-quick time. One satisfied customer right here.
My partner, the more spice sensitive type, went for the makhani chicken (£10.20). A creamy chicken dish cooked in a tandoor. It had similarities to a butter chicken, but was more rich in taste. The result? Two clean plates, mopped up by some peshwari nann (£2.95).
No way! We were both stuffed. I did, however, try a Nepalese bottled beer called Khukuri. Lovely and refreshing, but just like any Cobra or Kingfisher for me.
So, would you recommend it?
Yes, but by looking at the signs in the doorway and reading reviews following my visit, I don't think they need it. The restaurant has been voted the 20th best curry house in the country in The Independent and is currently the 42nd best restaurant out of more than 800 in Birmingham, as voted by users of Trip Advisor.
The total cost came to £58.56 for two glasses of wine, two beers, poppadoms, starters and main courses with rice and naan. It's not the cheapest curry house, but for me it is certainly one of the best.
Jojolapa, 55–59 Newhall Street, Birmingham B3 3RB
Tel: 0121 2122511
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