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Dec 8, 2006 02:04 AM

Moti Mahal or Karim's in Delhi, and Agra recs...

So I'm leaving for India later this month, and I'll be in Delhi briefly before going to Dehra Dun to visit family. I was wondering for real Dehli/North Indian Khana would I better off at Moti Mahal (and if so, a particular location?) or Karim's? Are the menus there similar, or are they pretty different? Are there any places in Delhi that you feel are better than both of them in that category?

I might also drop into Agra (my Mother has never seen the Taj). Are there any phenomenal finds there? Thanks for your help!

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  1. Im hoping somebody can state a preference from personal taste for you - Im just researching still -

    I think the two are substantively different, though -
    Karim's food is identified as mughal - they have a tradition of serving the "royal" food characteristic of the mughul tradition in Delhi - there website is interesting and they have two restaurants, one in Old Delhi, the other, more formal, in Nizamuddin

    Moti Mahal is more chicken-ey - identified with tandoori food of the Northwest Frontier/Punjab and the creation of butter chicken.

    1. completely off subject, but i dig the 'pagal' handle.

      1. Thanks for the advice. I didn't think to try and check out the menus online. They both look pretty good! Different sides of Delhi cuisine, I suppose. It's seems like there's not so much activity on this part of chowhound though. I might try and sign up at another subcontinent and see what kind of advice I get over there. I could also ask my relatives in Delhi what they suggest, but I wouldn't be surprised if they've never been to Karim's.

        Btw, Howler, I've been using "pagal" or a variation of it since at least 1995 on small local BBS systems, and later the internet!

        1. i think i was called 'yedput' (which is the marathi version of pagal) non-stop by my parents .. should've chosen it instead of howler.

          btw, if you have relatives in delhi, wont you be much better off eating at their homes than in any restaurant?

          2 Replies
          1. re: howler

            Unfortunately, no. The husband just got a big promotion, and after moving into a bigger apartment he also hired a "cook" (I use that word in the lightest sense possible). Plus, if I'm out during the day I'm not going to want to trek all the way back to where they live, which is almost in Noida.

            1. re: pagal

              Funny, I was going to comment on my appreciation of the "pagal" handle, something that I was frequently called by my mum as a kid (and sometimes still am!). I also like the name of the London musical duo Badmarsh & Shri!!

              I've opted for oonth as my handle (previously Sandeep when I first started posting on this site), another hindi word that I love, very onomatopoeic.

          2. Karim's is excellent but a bit hard to get to, especially if you are in Noida. I think there is a branch of Karims in South Delhi (near Chanakya Cinema is what springs to mind) but I've never eaten there. If you are in the South, you might want to try ChikFish, a well known dhaba (people eat in their cars or take away) near IIT.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gumnaam

              No comparison btw Karims and Moti Mahal. Definitely the former. Authentic Delhi courtly food with dishes like nargisi kofta you will find nowhere else. Other recos - the almond meat dish badam pasanda, and the stew (pronounced shtu) and the incomparable mutton burra kababs.

              Karims is easy to get to these days, apart from the Old Delho one, a branch in South Delhi at Nizamuddin, one in East Delhi (Preet Vihar), and nearer to the airport, in Gurgaon (there they do the amazing nihari at weekends which elsewhere is only available at the crack of dawn since it is a traditional breakfast dish). From Noida, the Nizamuudin one is very convenient, check which day they are closed, I think it is Tuesday. Unmissable food, and amazingly inexpensive prices.

              Moti Mahal is different - Delhi Punjabi food, they invented butter chicken, and kind of started the post-Partition food business ventures by Partition Punjabi refugees. Whereas Karims represents the culture of Dilli, the old Indo-Persian ethos nowadays called 'Mughlai'. However, I was rather disappointed when I went to the original Daryganj branch some years ago, was still good food but had definitely seen better times.

              I believe the Great Kabab Factory in Noida has amazing kababs off all kinds not available anywhere else as these are old courtly inventions which have died out except in Lucknow, been recently revived here. Going by hearsay, however.

              In Connaught Place, Nizam's has lovely kathi rolls of all kinds and very good biryani, rolls are a Calcutta speciality and invention, another of my standbys on Delhi visits for the last so many years. Any cabbie should know, tell him it is the Middle Circus CP, near Plaza Cinema in a side-lane, next to the now-defunct Chanakya movie theatre advance ticketing counter. Again, quite an easy drive from Noida.