Owner Paul Nair and the team behind Atlanta’s Savi Provisions neighborhood markets opened Jai Ho Indian Kitchen & Bar in mid-March in the Morningside space most recently occupied by Madre + Mason.
It’s the first full-service restaurant for Nair, who drew inspiration from his upbringing in India, and partnered with chefs Anish Nair (no relation) and Vijeesh Parayil on the project.
The kitchen duo came up with a sprawling modern menu marked by regional influences and dishes that highlight Pondicherry cuisine, which mixes Indian and French ingredients and techniques.
The nearly 4,000-square-foot restaurant on Dutch Valley Road is tucked away at the end of a cul-de-sac near Piedmont Park, and not far from the Beltline and the Atlanta Botanical Garden, affording guests a secluded atmosphere, with a cozy bar and lounge area, 100 seats in the dining room, and up to 60 more on the patio.
Right now, it’s open for dinner Tuesdays-Sundays, with a brunch buffet on the weekends. But weekday lunch service is coming soon.
Last week, Paul Nair was at Jai Ho with Parayil to offer a closer look at the concept and the cooking. Nair explained how it grew out of Savi Provisions, which now has locations in Inman Park, Brookhaven, Buckhead and Midtown.
“My background is in hotel and restaurant management,” Nair said. “But this is my first sit-down restaurant. Basically, I started looking at the progression of Savi Market. If I want to compete in the market, and make it a more established brand, we need to get more into food, and to do that, we are expanding cafe seating in all locations.
“Ultimately, I want every location to be 50 percent food and 50 percent retail, so we started featuring Indian grab-and-go items. I have a commissary kitchen for all locations, and Vijeesh had been working there. But that was a waste of talent. Now he is here, and lo and behold, we have an Indian restaurant.”
Nair said the decision to feature the flavors of Pondicherry, a former French colony in southern India, was key to setting Jai Ho apart.
“This menu has a French touch to it,” he said. “For me, Pondicherry probably has the best food, because between the French herbs and the method of cooking and the Indian spices, it has a unique balance.
“For our rack of lamb, we do a sous vide so it becomes tender and then it goes into the tandoor, where it’s grilled with Indian spices that are roasted in-house. And then, of course, we do use a bit of rosemary and mint and other herbs in many dishes, so it’s more of an Indian fusion.”
But the menu ranges widely from starters such as Bagari shrimp with mustard and fresh curry leaves served with poori, and Indian street food snacks such as spinach chaat with tamarind and mint sauce and onion relish, to a “seafood symphony” of shrimp, mussels and calamari, flavored with saffron, coconut and turmeric.
There also are sections with vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as desserts, including a chocolate orange chutney cake. And the bar offers wine, craft beer and specialty cocktails such as the Bombay Cooler with Bombay gin, cucumber, cilantro, green chile pepper and lime juice.
As for the future, Nair said he plans to open more Savi Market locations, and feature Parayil at more restaurants.
“The chef we have is very talented, and I want to nurture him so we can open multiple restaurants of different kinds,” Nair said. “Maybe something fast casual, which there’s definitely a market for here in Atlanta.”
560 Dutch Valley Road NE, Atlanta. 404-458-6888, jaihoatlanta.com.
More images from a First Look at Jai Ho Indian Kitchen & Bar in Morningside