Olas: Superior Northern Indian fare inspired by Jain cooking

To anyone who harbours a love for cooking, they’d be helpless in the kitchen if no aromatics were allowed.

That would be a big “no” to garlic, ginger, onions, galangal, fresh turmeric and serai, each a powerhouse of flavour, colour and aroma that Asian cooks in particular, rely on to give their dishes depth of flavour and dimension.

However, some of the more strict followers of Jainism, a culture of non-violence, adhere to this principle yet produce some of the most delicious dishes imaginable. Jainism in general is a spiritually rigorous vegetarian diet which means no meat and in some cases, dairy products, or even eggs, ever make it to the table either.

Olas Indian Restaurant

One restaurant that has borrowed albeit loosely from the philosophy, techniques, ingredients and flavours of Jain cooking is Olas Indian Restaurant at Grand Seasons Hotel along Jalan Pahang in Kuala Lumpur.

Theirs is an eclectic take on Jain cooking which means one gets to sample authentic Jain dishes if they so wish, or indulge in other Northern Indian fare where the use of meat, yoghurt and root aromatics is allowed.

Invited to sample their menu, it turned out to be an unexpectedly delectable dinner fit for a king with memorable dishes ranging from appetisers and mains to flat breads and briyani.

Appetisers that appeal

A great prelude to any meal has got to be the Cashew Nut Chat – delicately roasted cashews tossed with a selection of Indian spices that tease the tastebuds with a little heat, a little spice, and a little tang.

Another favourite was the Dahi Vada – deep-fried lentil dumplings drenched with lashings of mildly sweetened yoghurt.

This appetiser in particular was so mouth-watering, it was difficult resisting the urge to eat more than one vada and risk the possibility of spoiling the lavish spread for dinner that followed.

Mutton and Chicken Briyani

Olas’ take on this all-time favourite was nothing short of spectacular.

The Murgh Madka Briyani (chicken) and Gosht Madka Briyani (mutton) made its grand appearance in a rugged, traditional earthen pot, sealed with a lid of cooked dough – a simple mixture of floor and water – to ensure a vacuum so the meat, rice and spices cook to perfection inside.

The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and packed with flavour.
A perfect selection of condiments to complete any meal.

Fall-off-the-bone tender, packed with flavour and carrying just a hint of heat, both the flavour profiles of the chicken and mutton briyani have been reworked by Olas’s new chef from India – and with stunning results.

Needless to say, second and third helpings were next to impossible to resist.

Another Malaysian favourite, the Tandoori Murgh was as palate-pleasing as the Briyani. Marinated in yoghurt and spices, then baked to perfection in a tandoor, a type of clay oven, the tender and moist chicken went well with the Briyani rice that came with raita, chutney and yoghurt.

Marinated in yoghurt and spices, then baked to perfection in a tandoor, the chicken meat was moist and tender.

Seafood surprises

Two seafood dishes that complemented the meat excellently was the Malabari Prawn Curry and Fish Masala.

The prawn dish was delightfully rich, sweet, spicy and creamy all at once. Sitting in a sea of thick, yoghurt-infused gravy, and cooked with liberal amounts of dried chilli and curry leaves, the morsels of fat and juicy prawns with their red tails peeking from the gravy made for some seriously tasty food.

Morsels of fat and juicy prawns with their red tails peeking from the gravy made for some seriously tasty food.

Another delicately cooked dish was the Fish Masala. One would be forgiven for mistaking the luscious slabs of fish in the dish for chicken as it was cooked so well just like the prawns yet distinctly different, with the familiar tang that fish curries are known for.

A vegetarian’s dream

If you’re vegetarian, you’ll love the menu at Olas. Accompanying the many seafood and meat dishes were two standouts that deserve mention – Kofta Curry and Palak Paneer.

Kofta Curry is essentially deep-fried dumplings made from mixed vegetables and cheese, generously drizzled with a rich and spicy tomato gravy that’s perfect for mopping up with shards of delicious naan.

For vegetarians – the Kofta Curry of deep-fried dumplings made from mixed vegetables and cheese.

Firm, yet ready to melt in your mouth, these cheese cutlets were a firm favourite at the table. And the Palak Paneer did not disappoint either.

Paneer, a type of Indian cottage cheese, is often paired with pureed spinach cooked with mild spices. Refined and delicately creamy, it’s no wonder this dish is an all-time favourite with Malaysians of all ages.

Glorious carbs

When you’re at Olas, forget the diet and plunge into the carbs with gusto. There’s a head-spinning variety to go with your meat or vegetable dishes – Vegetable Pulao, Mattar Pulao and Jeera Pulao, all made with long-grained Basmati rice as well as a heady selection of Naan.

The Kulcha-Dhaniya Naan, topped with chopped coriander and Kulcha Aloo Naan stuffed with a spiced potato filling were perfect with the various thick gravies that came with most of the meat and vegetable dishes.

The Kulcha-Dhaniya Naan comes topped with a generous helping of chopped coriander.
The Kulcha Aloo Naan comes stuffed with a spiced potato filling.

Whether dining for two or with a bigger group of family and friends, Olas has something special and unexpected on its menu to offer even the most finicky of eaters.

Opened daily from 7.00pm to 1030pm, it is best to call 03-2697-8888 Ext 8819 for reservations.