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Jul 23, 2012 08:31 PM

Moti Mahal delux

Now I want to preface this post by saying that my opinion is colored by the rose tint of nostalgia.

I grew up in India, in a boarding school with shitty food, my vacations however were always in Delhi and when our parents took us out it was two places, Bukhara or Moti Mahal. (Moti mahal was always special in our family because that is where my mom's father took her). Bukhara had the most amazing Dal makhani and Moti mahal was a close second. However for the Butter Chicken and Tandori Chicken there is nothing that compared in a sit down restaurant (a couple of street places had better food) . Now i have lived in the states 12 years and new york 7. I have eaten a lot of Indian food and i have liked various things, Khathi roles, kebabs , chicken makhini, rogan josh etc etc. But i had never been able to get the Dal Makhani and Butter Chicken of my childhood. Until now that is.

When a friend said Moti Mahal, a collaboration with the Indian restaurant, was opening in the Upper east side, i ventured from the west side to see if the Dal Makhani and Butter Chicken lived up to my memory. Today for the first time, in a long time, food bought forward a flood of emotions and bought back memories from my childhood. The Dal makhani is second to none i have had since I left India I could have sufficed on the richness of the dal alone. The Butter Chicken was sublime, It had the right balance of creaminess and spice. Make sure when you order the Butter Chicken you order the chicken as a Tandori chicken. We got the Tandori Chicken separately and it was succulent. Spiced to the perfect degree and kept in the Tandoor for exactly right amount amount of time. The Lamb Masala Tikka was so good, (all i could think was it would be perfect as a Khathi roll with a double egg but that is another story). The deserts also where like a trip down memory lane. Though the ras malai and the Phirni were above par they can be found elsewhere. The difference was the ice cream. It had Vanilla and Strawberry ice cream, the difference is hard to describe, i am no wordsmith. but anyone who has gone to India and eaten the Vanilla Ice Cream sold on the corner mother dairy know the difference.

We also tried the different things that they offer, the Golgappa shots and the Pan shots, they where good. A unique twist to traditional dishes but like i have mentioned, for me this was a trip down memory lane that i have not experienced in many years. The food is as authentic as you are going to get in New York CIty or anywhere else in America. If you do make it out there order the butter chicken and Dal Makhani with a butter nan. For starters try the Golgapa shots and for desert Tutti Fruity.

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  1. Thanks for the recommendation. The food must be good if it reminded you of things you ate in your childhood, and you've searched this out for years. I will be sure to check it out.

    1. ive had excellent indian meals at moti mahal in covent garden in london. are these places related?

      4 Replies
      1. re: sam1

        I believe so. The London and new New York ones are part of a worldwide chain of a hundred or so restaurants. Search the web for "Moti Mahal Delux" and you'll find a Wikipedia page, an official website (, etc.

        I ate at the unpretentious original Moti Mahal in Delhi decades ago, before the explosion of their empire, and remember liking it. I ate at their San Francisco location (it seems no longer to exist) about 15 years ago and remember not liking it. I suspect the quality will vary widely from branch to branch of the Moti Mahal tree.

        The founder of the original restaurant, Kundan Lal Gujral, claims to have invented tandoori chicken, a claim bolstered by his biography in the book "Culinary Biographies" (ed. Alice Arndt). But I'd take the claim with a pinch of garam masala. The entry under "Tandoor" in Alan Davidson's "Oxford Companion to Food" discusses the history of the oven and the origin of its name. The linguistic origin appears to go back to Babylonian times, and the clay oven itself seems at least as old as a thousand years. It was probably a bread oven originally, but meats also seem to have always been cooked in it.

        In the new translation by Charles Perry of Kitab al-Tabikh (published by Prospect Books under the title "A Baghdad Cookery Book"), a 13th century Arab cookbook, there's a whole chapter largely on chicken cooked in a tandoor. These tandoori chickens were stuffed with various things, colored with saffron, and cooked over flat dough that absorbed the drippings. We see not only tandoori chicken in its infancy here, but also Yorkshire pudding.

        Gujral may still lay claim to the particular spicing used for his version of tandoori chicken, but not for being "the first to come up with the idea that a whole chicken could also be cooked inside the tandoor" (claim made in "Moti Mahal's Tandoori Trail" by Monish Gujral, Roli Books, 2004).

        Still, the Moti Mahal chain has a history with color and flavor, and one can only hope some of that will rub off in New York.

        1. re: FoodDabbler

          Wow that was quite an education, thank you.

          1. re: shivender

            If you enjoy good Indian food, run, don't walk, to Moti Mahal Delux on 63rd and 1st. Bring your own wine (or beer) as it is still BYO. Excelent food, service and decor. Reservations a a must as it is very popular. packed last evening (11/3) and a crowd outside.

            1. re: Stuartmc910

              I've been wanting to try this restaurant and hiope to do so before too long. Can someonen explain what the OP means when he writes,

              <Make sure when you order the Butter Chicken you order the chicken as a Tandori chicken. We got the Tandori Chicken separately and it was succulent>

              That sounds like one should order the butter chicken but specify that the kitchen use tandoori chicken to make the dish...pardon my ignorance of Indian food, but is that the case here??