Monday, March 12, 2012

Indian dinner at Maharaja restaurant (Moscow)

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I haven't been to Maharaja restaurant since summer 2010, when I came to Moscow for Insead vacation. Since then it closed and opened again, many things could change. I wasn't at all sure I'll find the same family run Indian place with really good food and relaxing atmosphere. I did though. It is still the same and I felt back. The dinner was marvelous.

I guess the only way to deal with my wild hunger for Indian food it to finally start making it at home. I even stocked the ingredients when I last visited Indian spices store. If you only knew how much food I had at Maharaja. It was really hard to make myself stop eating. The food was too good and I missed it for too long.

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It looked like Maharaja got refurbished since my last visit, though the overall interior stile stayed the same - red and gold, covered with Indian ornaments and with elephants standing here and there. The light is very bright, but still not disturbing. The staff is very hospitable, Indian by look though Russian speaking.


The menu also stayed mostly unchanged. Lassies, lentils soups, cold and hot starters e.g. raita, onion bhaji and samosas. Then various tandoori dishes, then curries and other main courses (chicken, lamb, fish). Then various biryani, several kinds of Indian bread (roti, prata, naan, kulcha, papadum). Some Indian desserts: ras malai, gulab jamun, rasgulla, coconut burfi, kulfi and masala chai. Vegetarian chapter is very elaborate and rich for flavor. Like the previous time I mostly ordered from there.


It was holiday, lunch time. I booked a table in advance. When we came (around 2 pm) it was almost empty, but then guests started coming an hour later the hall was full. My friend got a sweet lassi drink (later she asked for the second one). While contemplating on the menu we got welcomed with papadums and spicy condiments.


The food arrived soon after we made an order and almost all at once. Like last time, the waiters set a heater at the table. First they heat the plates and then set all the hot dishes over it. That for me feels like a very important detail and gives me a luxury of really slow and relaxed eating. If there was no heater the food would go cold in 15 minutes and that would be it with the dinner.


In Indian places I tend to eat the same favorite dishes all the time and this time I also couldn't avoid them. I didn't regret though.


Dal makhani for me is the food to die for. It is made of urad dal (черный маш) sometimes mixed with other legumes, cooked slowly for a long time, so it almost dissolves into delicious gravy, finished with cream and butter.


Palak paneer (literally translates as spinach and cheese) is fried paneer cheese in creamy and spicy spinach gravy. I try this dish everywhere I see it and it is quite often not too good. There seem to be lots of ways to make it. In Maharaja it was very good.


My friend went for chicken curry, so I was lucky to try something new. The curry sauce was full of flavor and I loved it.


All was accompanied by delicious plain basmati rice. 



We also couldn't help ordering potato stuffed prata steaming hot and buttered on top. There was no one dish I didn't like. Level of spice (we asked for medium) was real, as expected.


When we were full completely and half the food was still at the table. We asked to take it away and the waiter magically turned it into several plastic containers in a white Maharaja bag. We left happy. Very happy. And now I'm really learning to make dal makhani shortly.

Related:

Moscow restaurants guide
Thai dinner at OM cafe (Moscow)
Jagannath Moscow vegetarian cafe and specialty store

Rice with green lentils (inspired by Kitchari)
Tamarind and fresh ginger cake (vegan version)
Ginger tea with orange and raisins
A very special red lentils soup