My introduction to Indian food came via an eye-opening experience at The Oven, and my culinary world was forever changed. The wondrous combination of spices and herbs opened a new portal for me, one that I wanted to step through time and again.
Since moving to Omaha in January 2018, however, I’d been searching for an Indian experience that could take me back to that place The Oven (which does have a location in downtown Omaha) did. My quest brought me to an encounter vastly different from the cuisine I had at The Oven… but that’s not a bad thing.
Located in the Rockbrook Village area, Jaipur has long been an Omaha institution known for terrific Indian cuisine and its on-site brewery. It’s dim lighting, vast drink menu, and exquisite decor have earned the it recognition as one of Omaha’s most romantic restaurants.
The ambiance is fantastic, and our waiter was both knowledgable and friendly, even if he disappeared for long stretches. As we were seated, I noticed several of our fellow diners had dishes with bright red chicken, which the waiter identified as the tandoori chicken. He also highly recommended it, so who was I to say no?
The tandoor oven is a brilliant device used most prominently in Indian cooking. These circular ovens expose food to live fire and radiant heat, causing extremely high temperatures. The hot air causes the fat and juices to drip down into the charcoal, which reemerges in the smoke to re-infuse the flavor. It’s truly a wonderful invention.
Jaipur uses this cooking process to make true magic with its chicken. While the color is a bit questionable at first, the flavors erase any and all doubts. It’s first marinated in yogurt, which results in just the slightest tang. But the spices are what truly stand out, as the chili powder and cayenne add just the right amount of heat. The meat is perfectly tender and pulls nicely off the bone. The dish is served with a bed of rice, but this chicken needs no starchy partner. It’s a home run all by itself.
Jaipur offers a number of different proteins from the tandoor, including salmon, lamb, tuna, and more. If you want to try multiple items, the mixed tandoori grill dish is the way to go. It offers, shrimp, chicken, and malai seekh, minced meat flavored with ginger, garlic, coriander, and onion.
The chicken is still very good, but lacks that extra flavor punch that the tandoori chicken dish provides. Because it’s cut into chunks and skewered, it misses that flavoring that comes from being grilled on the bone. The malai seekh rolls look odd, but they have a pleasant sausage flavor and are a nice change of pace.
The shrimp were a bit disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, they were good shrimp – large, plump, and quite tender. But while they had the red coloring of the chicken, they lacked the spices I was expecting from Indian fair. The jasmine rice is fine, but nothing special.
Jaipur offers a number of different Indian breads, ranging from naan to roti, paratha, and kulch, all of which are cooked in the tandoor. The paneer kulcha is delightful. Stuffed with cheese and onions, it’s a bit similar to a quesadilla, though it’s much chewier. The texture is pleasant, and the portion is plentiful.
But the best part about this appetizer is the mint chutney. To steal a phrase from Guy Fieri, I would eat a flip flop if it were dipped in this sauce. Regardless of which dish you choose here, I highly recommend getting a cup of this chutney to dip it in.
The Mulligatawny soup, an Indian speciality offered with every entree, is delicious. Crafted with a base of pureed lentils and finished with a dash of rice and coriander, it’s the perfect, creamy start to the meal.
And I’ve just scratched the surface on Jaipur’s menu. There are nearly 100 entree options, and most of them sound amazing. There are dozens of chicken, lamb, and seafood options, not to mention the Indians breads, tandoor entrees, or chef specials. You could come here every day for a month, order something different every time, and leave satisfied.
My complaints with Jaipur are minor. Though our appetizer and soups came out quickly, the entree took about 30 minutes to appear. And our waiter, while understandably busy on a Saturday night, was mostly absent.
I struggle how to rank Jaipur against The Oven. Jaipur is definitely among the best Indian restaurants I’ve visited in Nebraska, and I highly recommend it. The tandoori chicken alone is worthy of a visit. But the dishes I had were just so different from those at The Oven… if I had to choose, I have to side with my original Indian love. But Jaipur is excellent, and I’ll absolutely be back in the near future.
Hoppen Hierarchy: 8.8 out of 10
Pros: amazing tandoori chicken; expansive, different menu; incredible mint chutney
Cons: longer wait times; inattentive/too busy staff; on the expensive side