I worked an event at The Sound Environment in Omaha one evening earlier this year. I was standing and talking to one of their longtime employees, Jim, just catching up on things when a woman walked in looking for her husband and his friend. She said, "They're either in here or they're over at the Indian restaurant."
I turned to Jim and said, "There's an Indian restaurant nearby?"
He said, "Yeah, Jaipur! It's just right over here."
We walked to the front door and he pointed to a building down the way in the Rockbrook Village Shopping Center in which both businesses are located (see map). It was literally a 50 yard walk to the front door of the restaurant. Now, I figured that I had been coming to The Sound Environment at this location for over 20 years. Jaipur opened in 1992 and I have driven by the place countless times over the years and never noticed it before. But, then again, that shouldn't be surprising as my wife has told me countless times over the years that I am not good at noticing things.
I asked Jim if the food was good and he said, "Oh, it's very good. And they're also a brewpub."
"A brewpub," I asked him, somewhat incredulous. "An Indian brew pub?"
He said, "Oh, yeah. They have a brewing operation in the back. They make the most outrageous jalapeno beer."
The event at The Sound Environment was over at 9 p.m. and Jim said that Jaipur served food up to 9:30. I said, "We ought to try the place out!"
Jim said, "Oh, anytime I have the chance to eat at Jaipur, I go!"
Jaipur, named for a city in northern India, was co-founded by Steve Gordon who also co-owned The Oven in Lincoln, also a highly acclaimed Indian restaurant; and L'Orient, a former upscale restaurant in Rockbrook Village. I have an industry colleague, Bruce Jacobs from Stillpoints, who happened to be at The Sound Environment's event that evening who calls the Oven one of his all-time favorite restaurants. Bruce told me, "When I drive out to Denver for the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival, I always time it so that I can have a meal at the Oven in Lincoln."
Bruce told me that evening in Omaha that when he found out that the Oven and Jaipur had been joined at the hip at one point, he tried the food at Jaipur the previous evening. Is it similar to the Oven, I asked him. He said, "Oh, yeah. It's excellent."
Gordon sold his shares in both the Oven and Jaipur around 2004. He sold the Oven to Ngawang Rinchen, a Bhutanese native who was once the chef for the Royal Family of Bhutan (you gotta click on the link - the King of Bhutan has four wives - all sisters!); and the Jaipur Brew House was sold to Nepalese native Gyanendra Bhandari who had been the chef at the restaurant for three years prior. Bhandari continues to be the executive chef of Jaipur, but Sanjay Pandit and Bhojraj Paudel run the day-to-day operations in the kitchen. Steve Gordon still works with Bhandari as the Jaipur's wine consultant and helps with the wine list that totals over 180 bottles.
It was just after 9 p.m. when we got into the Jaipur Brew House and sat at a table toward the east wall of the restaurant. The lighting was somewhat subdued, almost too dim to adequately read the menu. But the decor was elegant and classy. Once we were seated, we were given menus by our waitress that evening, Smrita. She was a pleasant young lady who reminded us that they closed the kitchen at 9:30.
Jim had been raving about the jalapeno ale at the Jaipur Brew House and he ordered a 10 oz. glass of the brew right off the bat. I asked if I could get a sample of the jalapeno beer and Smrita took off to get the beers. She came back moments later and said, "I'm sorry, we're out of the jalapeno ale this evening."
Jim reacted as though someone had run over his puppy. "Oh man," he exclaimed. "You're out of the jalapeno beer? I've been craving one for the past couple of hours!" Smrita said she was sorry, but the jalapeno ale is, by far, their most requested beer at Jaipur. We decided upon each of us getting a glass of their India Pale Ale. Actually, it was a tad flat and didn't have a forward taste like I've found in other IPA's. But it was certainly drinkable.
In addition to traditional northern Indian foods, the Jaipur Brew House also features an "Indian Fusion" menu that offered an Indian twist on Midwestern/American foods. Some of the entrees they had to offer on the fusion menu included a beef tenderloin that was cooked in their high temperature tandoor oven, a grilled tenderloin with Indian spices; a Tandoori marinated grilled salmon; a Colorado lamb kabob marinated in garlic and ginger then cooked in the tandoor oven; and a Jaipur chicken cutlet marinated with yogurt and Indian spices, then pan-fried.
Jim told me that all their lamb dishes were wonderful. I'm not big on lamb - I don't like the greasy taste of lamb, nor do I like the texture all that much. But he was pretty adamant that the lamb at the Jaipur Brew House was excellent. I decided to further broaden my horizons and I wanted something sort of spicy that evening. The lamb vindaloo filled that bill. I ordered that and, along with Jim's wholehearted recommendation, I went with a bowl of the Mulligatawny soup - a traditional Indian soup featuring pureed lentils with spices, then topped with rice and fresh coriander.
Jim was torn between a number of items. "This happens to me every time I come here," he explained to me. "Everything is so good." Knowing he was under pressure because the kitchen would be closing shortly, he decided upon the chicken pad Jaipur entree - large marinated chicken chunks with stir-fried rice noodles along with egg, fresh veggies and Indian spices. A cashew sauce then topped the concoction. The special soup that evening was a pureed bean soup and Jim signed up for that, as well. Then Jim said, "Should we get an appetizer?" I suggested the garlic naan, but he said the Kheema naan - a lightly buttered naan bread stuffed with ground lamb. I've had Kheema naan before and I thought it was pretty damn good.
Smrita brought out our soups. I had taken a picture of both our soups, but the one of my Mulligatawny soup didn't turn out. Below right is Jim's pureed bean soup. Jim said his soup was overly flavorful and he offered me to take a spoonful. My Mulligatawny was very good, but I liked the rich spice and herb flavor of his pureed bean soup.
The Kheema naan came out next (above right). It was big and fluffy, chocked full of ground lamb. It looked like a small stuffed pizza sitting on the plate. And it was rich and very flavorful. I knew there was no way we'd be able to finish all the food.
After about another 10 minutes, our main entrees came out. Jim's chicken pad Jaipur looked overly thick and rich. I'm not big on cashew or peanut sauces, but the large chunks of cashews on top of the pad Jaipur looked very good. Jim offered a portion to me and he put a sample on my bread plate. The taste sensations were overwhelming. I don't know exactly what was in it that made it taste so good, but it certainly appealed to me.
From the first bite of my lamb vindaloo, it got my attention. First of all, the lamb chunks weren't greasy in the least. The lamb had a great taste quality to it and wasn't chewy like I've found other lamb dishes to be for me in the past. The second thing was the forward taste of the Indian spices incorporated in the sauce. It was just wonderful. But the big thing - it was HOT! I mean spicy hot! I wanted something spicy and, man, I got it! I was telling Jim how hot it was and I offered to reciprocate on a sample of my lamb vindaloo. He offered his bread plate and I put some on there. He took a bite and said, "Holy shit! That IS hot! But it's so damn good, too!" He was absolutely right.
The best part was dipping some of the Kheema naan in the vindaloo sauce. Oh, God! It was just excellent. It was so forward with the spices and had an explosive aftertaste. It was just fabulous.
Jim and Bruce couldn't have been more spot on about the food at the Jaipur Brew House. Although the beer was a little flat and they were out of their popular jalapeno ale, the food was outstanding. In fact, the vindaloo was possibly a little more hot in spiciness than I like, but it was still excellent. And I have to say the lamb was nothing like the lamb I'd had before. Smrita was an excellent waitress for us and even though it was well past closing time when we finished up, we didn't feel hurried at all. Now that I know about the Jaipur Brew House, I look forward to going back at some point and having something other than the vindaloo and trying the jalapeno beer. Oh! And it looks like on my next trip over to Lincoln, I'll have to seek out the Oven, as well.