AN ENCOUNTER WITH TRADITIONAL INDIAN HOSPITALITY IN THE BEAUTIFUL SWISS CITY OF BASEL
On a recent visit to Basel to see my daughter and son-in-law, I had the most wonderful evening in a small, but smart, Indian restaurant called Jay’s. Jay Kumar hails from Mangalore in South India and has been living in Switzerland for the past 24 years. Jay has captured the hearts of the local people not only with his food, but also his warm and outgoing personality with a large dose of humour , which is a mix of Indian and European wit. He instantly puts his customers at ease with a smile and greets them warmly. I liked this welcoming air as I entered the restaurant and looked forward to tasting his food, about which I had heard so much from my daughter and son-in-law , who are both connoisseurs of good food, not just Indian.
Jay cooks himself in the restaurant and his spicing is clever and authentic. He blends his spices to perfection, with no single spice dominating the flavours. We were there on a Saturday evening and the place was buzzing. It was obvious that everyone was enjoying a Saturday night out with good food and company, and above all Indian hospitality, which is renowned the world over.
Baked samosas caught my attention, as you do not find these in an Indian restaurant. They are always deep fried and too big for my liking, but Jay’s baked samosas were a joy. They were small with just the right amount of filling which was full of subtle flavours. He uses puff pastry instead of ready-to-use samosa pastry which most restaurants do.
The kebabs and other tandoori dishes were succulent, juicy and traditionally flavoured, but the secret here is that Jay uses Sous-vide cooking techniques rather than straight tandoori cooking. This method of cooking keeps the meat and poultry beautifully moist.
Main courses were equally delicious and covered different regions of India rather than the usual North Indian dishes. Bengali fish curry and lamb with spinach were my favourite. It was also nice to see green beans with potato as a side dish instead of the run-of-the-mill ones such as mushroom bhaji and aloo gobi (spiced potato and cauliflower).
Jay has an open plan kitchen which is always inviting and interesting. It was evident that his regular customers not only enjoyed his food but also his company. Good food and wine combined with such an eager-to-please attitude must be the key to Jay’s continued success. Such is the extent of his success that he has moved to bigger premises since my visit. My love for India and its cuisine is evident in the many books I have written on the subject, and in my view, Jay’s is one of the best Indian restaurants outside Britain, where you will be able to find the true taste of India. He offers pure home-style food with no extra oil floating on top, the sight of which is enough to ruin one’s appetite.
Jay has a good selection of wines which were carefully chosen to complement the spices. He offers a choice of complimentary liqueurs at the end of the meal which is a nice touch.
I would advise diners from England not to compare Jay’s prices with Indian restaurants in Britain. We all know Switzerland is an expensive country and to offer top quality food using fresh and fabulous local produce cannot come cheap. In any case, top class Indian restaurants in Britain also charge higher prices than average restaurants as they too source good quality local produce.
To me it was the most enchanting evening in my favourite country in the whole world . Switzerland is and always has been my ‘Heaven on Earth’ and I did not expect to find delicious Indian food in ‘Heaven’!
Mo.–Fr. 11.30–14.30h & 18–23.30h
St. Johanns-Vorstadt 21
4056 Basel, Switzerland