“Jiji means happiness in Italian,” says young chef Anup looking quite cheerful himself. Well, I have not been able to find the word “jiji” or its cheerful meaning in any of the European languages. But if Café Jiji has decided to create its own brand of joy, who are we to quibble? The interiors certainly do justice to the mood. Large, open, airy spaces, colourful murals, sleek furniture, and a well executed décor all add to the energy of this restaurant.
When asked about kind of cuisine is served and what is recommended, the chef is very clear. “We serve Italian food with additions from other parts of Europe. You will like everything here, especially our pesto risotto.”
I decide to start with a Côte d’Azur classic, the Niçoise salad (Rs 175) with some changes made in-house. Probably in keeping with the Indian taste, the anchovies are replaced by bell peppers, and bits of potato are added for good measure. The dish is a dieter’s delight. The vinaigrette is light, and so is the salad. The pan roasted chicken with vegetables (Rs 295) has a nice red wine and fresh pepper based brown sauce, but the chicken itself is ordinary. The accompanying mashed potatoes however, are yummy, clearly showcasing the chef’s mastery over the technique. The thin crust pepperoni pizza (Rs 275) has too much cheese masking the taste of too little pepperoni.
Now it is time to taste the much recommended Pesto Risotto (Rs 245). I am particularly keen to try this seemingly simple Italian rice preparation because very few outside of Italy get its complexity right. A typical Risotto is made out of Arborio rice, which goes through four stages of cooking. Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still al dente (with some bite), and with separate grains. The traditional texture is all’onda (wavy, or flowing in waves). Some chefs tend to take a short-cut by adding cream to get the texture right, something considered sacrilegious by any Italian.
To my delight and relief, the pesto infused risotto with herb oil, sticks to tradition, and manages to nail the texture without any added cream. It is aromatic, alluring and comforting; and delivers happiness in bucketfuls. I end the meal with authentically made crepes with a filling of chocolate (Rs 105), which masterfully deliver the taste of Provence.
With its food, friendly service, and reasonable prices, Café Jiji promises and delivers happy times. What sets this restaurant apart is the talented chef, who can dish out some fine tasting food.
Rating out of 5
Food: 4.0, Ambience: 4.0, Service: 4.0 | Overall: 4.0
Meal for two: Rs 1000 (does not include alcoholic beverage) | Alcohol: License Awaited | Credit Card: Yes
Address: Cafe Jiji, SCO-5-6-7, Sector-15, Part-2, Huda Market, Gurgaon
Phone No: +91 124 4085779
Timings: 11am- 11pm
Cuisine: Italian, Continental
First published in Friday Gurgaon