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Mar 22, 2008 02:03 AM

Moti Mahal confirmed

I went for dinner last night with the parents, who are visiting for the Easter weekend. I was charged with finding a good Indian restaurant for dinner, and based on my one previous experience here and Chow recommendations I took them to Moti Mahal. The place did not disappoint.

The food: I am going to fall short of limstereque poetry and precision here, but it was good. They started us with a shot of tomato mulligatawny soup topped with a mini-naan and a dolop of chutney, an auspicious start. We shared two appetizers, a medley of mushrooms topped with disk of paneer and a reinterpretation of the aloo papdi chaat; the latter was especially good. For the mains, we shared three vegetables, a sukhi bhaji (dry vegetable, not "curry style") of okra, mushroom, and other vegetables (good), a kofta, and a paneer dish. The latter were rich "curry-style" vegetables. At a lesser place they would have been too similar, but to MM's credit each had a distinct flavor and they were satisfying together. The kofta was in a slightly richer sauce, the paneer in a slight more tomato-based sauce with some greens mixed in (not coriander, not sure what it was). We had a mint paratha (excellent), and 3 naans (good, not ethereal). Based on this evidence, I would suggest asking for a plain paratha rather than naan, or try both. Overall this was very satisfying. I felt I had eaten well, did not feel a lead weight in my stomach, and felt that the richness was deployed as needed (no floating pools of oil here).

The dessert was a carrot halwa which was not bad. Desserts here are clearly conceived to be the kind of exciting combinations of things you expect at a good restaurant rather than the tired classics offered at most places (this is not a condemnation of the classics, but if I have another oily gulab jamun I am going to scream -- well made they are ethereal). So halwa came with an ice cream in a pastry shell and a biscotto. Not blown away, but not bad at all.

Without prompting they brought us warm towels to cleanse our hands, which for an Indian restaurant I believe is essential, since Indian food is meant to be eaten by hand (indeed singular, not hands! that would always get a rap on the knuckles at the dinner table).

Finally they brought a few chocolates with the bill, a gracious touch.

The bill: without wine came to 63 pounds including service, which I think is truly a bargain.

Random impressions: a schizophrenic music selection -- techno, India sitar, then jazz...

Final thoughts: Though I wouldn't unload the word great on this place, I would certainly say it's good and not hesitate to send others here or to go back myself. They are not doing entirely traditional recipes; they are trying to innovate but keep in sight of tradition. Innovation is intrinsically neither good nor bad as long as you do it well, and they do.

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  1. Thanks for the nice report BB. I think that mine is a bit of a dissenting voice where MM is concerned, it didn't really do it for me and funnily enough I had my folks in tow on the one occasion I went there. But enough people enthuse about the place for me to consider visiting again, as a favourite Manhattan hound of mine says, you've really got to visit a place 2-3 times before you can formulate a properly informed opinion, she's got more patience than I have I think.

    So where else will you be taking the parents? Perhaps we can start a post entitled something like "London restaurants favoured by older generation Desis" :-)

    1. excellent and completely fair report.

      mm's menu has been getting innovative - but at least the classics are there and they are done right.

      2 Replies
      1. re: howler

        You're right, there's always variability. One dinner and one lunch isn't enough to nail it. Someone will have to sacrifice themselves a few more times!

        We might need a thread on where to take to the Desi folks! Afternoon tea is a must, I was told, but I couldn't bring myself to go to the Ritz and Wolseley was fully booked, so we're trying the Langham. Will report back!


        1. re: bombaybeauty

          fyi - beware the cover charge at the langham.

      2. Thanks for this BB.

        Mrs H doesnt know Asian food but has been raving about this place since she ate there with business associates a couple of months back. She insists that we must go there on our next trip "down south" as she reckons I will love it (I also don't know Asian food).

        Reassuring to see it getting good reports from folk who do know their Asian food.

        1 Reply