I had heard about this restaurant, belonging to a big nationwide group(BJN), and had heard various accounts of the diverse cuisine that they offered. Their website calls it an American style diner, but the next paragraph touts it to have Mexican, Italian, Lebanese etc. type of food. http://www.bjngroup.in/restaurants/indijoe.html
While I did not see any, or many ‘American’ type of dishes, I can only conclude that it wasn’t included in that day’s menu, or maybe they have a different a la carte’ menu in the evening.
But to begin at the beginning – This restaurant is located in the Jewel Square mall next to the Taj Blue Diamond. For some reason, any reviews that I read had led me to expect a fast food counter, self-service kind of place, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a decent dining space. We got a long picnic style table with attached benches. A glass wall looked onto the terrace where they had a guy making pizzas and prepping vegetables. A tiny bit of the koregaon park skyline was also visible – mostly some tree-tops. We went there on a saturday morning around noonish, and along with one or two other diners, got first dibs on the buffet.
There was an extensive drinks menu, with various cocktails and beers. I don’t think I saw wine. Mocktails included sodas, iced teas and some fruit based drinks. The buffet was laid out in a smallish area, but the vegetarian stuff was labeled well. There was a salad section – not a salad ‘bar’ – that had a bowl of lettuce and some tossed salads. There was a ‘mexican cucumber salad’ that had some cucumbers etc. tossed in some chilli powder, not particularly mexican tasting. There was a simple salad of sprouts, onions and tomatoes dressed in lime juice. Then there was something with cottage cheese and pineapple in a creamy thick dressing that I gave a wide berth dreading the obvious presence of mayo. There was one salad called tomato mozzarella scallopini, which was thinly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella with some basil. This was just about ok tasting.
There were some assorted breads – dinner rolls and some french type bread and some cubed cheese. There was a tray of chat with some chutneys that I did not taste.
One positive thing was that there were an equal amount of vegetarian and meat dishes. There were two big pots of soup – cream of broccoli and almond turned out to be very watery with a broth like consistency. The soup tasted right, so looks like it was made that way by design. Needless to say, it was not impressive.
There was some thin crust pizza – not too great — the sort you would get in Cici’s e.g. There was one vegetarian and one chicken pizza. There were two vegetarian appetizers – cashew cutlets and vegetarian seek kabab. The Veg seekh was typical — dry and minty and not something I usually go for. The cashew cutlets were mostly potato based with a cashew inside and deep fried. The meat section had Chicken wings.
There was a lasagna called Cajun grilled vegetable lasagne. This was a creamy concoction with no noodles and lots of vegetables. There also did not seem to be any or much cheese, so I can only assume that the creamy sauce contained the cheese. But there was no clearly visible ricotta layer that you will generally find in a lasagna. There were lots and lots of vegetables which made me happy – thin layers of grilled eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, beans, mushrooms, baby corn etc. etc. The overall taste was tomatoey and comforting, but once again, I failed to understand what cajun elements or spices it contained.
There was some grilled fish in abundance and a sea-food salad that kept my carnivore companion happy. There was some sort of non-veg thai curry too. The oriental section contained burnt garlic noodles, ginger rice and some green veg thai curry. Although assured by the server that it was totally vegetarian, i detected a slight itch like thing when my throat protested, so that got a wide berth too.
There was a live pasta counter that was not very impressive. There were 2-3 already cooked vegetables, that the chef added less than a spoon of to the pasta. There was a choice of red or white sauce. The dish when put together was ok – not really great.
Moving to desserts – they had a diner style revolving(fast) display where they had mini desserts or ‘shots’ already assembled and you just had to pick a cup or two. There was a lot of cut fresh fresh fruit (no error), and viola – a chocolate fountain. This is the first time I encountered one in real life and I was thrilled to bits. ( Later my bubble was burst when someone told me how ubiquitous a chocolate fountain is in Pune – it seems even places like Big Bazaar have them). There were some pound cake pieces and marshmallows with skewers that you could dip into the fountain, and dip I did. The chocolate was super rich and super sweet – the kind that makes your eyes glaze and takes you on another plane. I could have gone with a darker, more bitter taste, but I suppose this is mostly to attract the kiddies.
The check, when it came was not much – two buffets costing around seven hundred odd. I think this place was likeable overall. The music was very loud, as seems to be the norm in Pune. The food was above average. The overall ambience was ok. The service was good – there when you need it but otherwise unobtrusive. The one slight disappointment was not finding anything mexican on the menu.
We left the place with a heavy step and a solemn promise that we always make to ourselves while leaving any buffet – No More Buffets!!!