The attribute of a good restaurant is not always its size or location, but rather the quality of its food and service to the customer. In this context, India’s premium restaurant, Moti Mahal Delux, makes no compromises and delivers exactly what it promises. Its name, which literally means ‘pearl palace’, has become synonymous with serving the best of North India’s gastronomic delicacies for over seven decades.
The stellar restaurant made a quiet appearance last June, joining the throng of American, Lebanese and European diners dotting prime space on the Arabian Gulf. Moti Mahal Delux was brought to Kuwait by Al Ghunaim Trading Co, the same group that represents popular franchises such as Chilis, Noodle House, etc. and is the only fine dining restaurant in their repertoire.
As it happens, Moti Mahal has a history, and I have a thing for places with stories to tell. The franchise is an extension of the original restaurant, which opened in 1929 in Delhi and till date, follows the recipes created by the original owner – Karam Chand Sarwal.
Young Karam Chandji was already experimenting and developing new concepts in Tandoori cooking, way back in the 1930s and 40s in the bylanes of Peshawar, in what was once an undivided India, but now falls in Pakistan. The tragedy of partition forced him to flee to Delhi with nothing but his skills as a creative user of the “tandoor”, an oven used by the common populace of North India. He established the first Moti Mahal in Darya Ganj, to put Delhi firmly on the culinary map of the world. His restaurant soon became renowned for its food and it was usual to spot State Guests, visiting Foreign Dignitaries, business tycoons and film personalities amongst its regular patrons.
It piqued my interest further, when I discovered that Karam Chandji was inarguably a pioneering chef, who is credited with several firsts, most notably being; the first to serve Mughlai and Barbeque cuisine in Delhi; the first to serve the now ubiquitous ‘tandoori chicken’; and the father of the infamous Murg Makhni, popularly known as ‘butter chicken’. His traditional authentic creations are magical (there are no other words to describe them), drawing the maximum of flavor from the very freshest of ingredients. It is the inheritance of the creative skills of the Royal Mughal Chefs that has been Karam Chandji’s most important legacy.
Moving on to food, the menu is not too exhaustive, which is a relief. I started out with a bowl of Murgh Yakhni Shorba, i.e. chicken soup. The term ‘yakhni’ means broth or soup and traces back to ancient times. This clear soup is naturally thickened in chicken stock, without thickening agents, and flavored with herbs. Moti Mahal relies on unique cooking techniques to give their dishes flavor and texture, completely avoiding additives or taste enhancers common in most commercial outfits.
Next to come, were the appetizers. An assorted mix included Zafraani Kasturi Kabab, Nawabi Chicken Tikka, Fish Kabab and prawns, rendered from their trademark tandoors. And to the delight of my taste buds, the tandoor cooked chunks of meat, chicken and fish, were well spiced and succulent. It is often that tandoor cooking is over done; rendering the meat dry, but not in this case.
For my main course, I went with my host’s recommendations, starting with Murg Makhni, of course, seeing how it is Moti Mahal’s signature dish and after much finger-licking (ahem!), I highly recommend it. However, I equally relished their Lucknowi stir-fired lamb mince with herbs –my personal favorite –and a dish of Dal Makhni. Moti Mahal’s Dal Makhni is exceptionally delicious, because of their method cooking and ingredients used. The popular vegetarian dish is soaked overnight and then slow cooked in pure Indian clarified butter and cream – giving it a velvety taste.
Finally, the most anticipated dish of my main course arrived – Chicken Parda Biryani. A fixation in North Indian cuisine, the variety of biryani is cooked and served in a pot sealed with dough, wherein the ‘dough’ is the ‘parda’ (veil) concealing the biryani, and retaining the fragrant aroma, until it is served. When it arrived on my table, the server slit the bread crust before serving. As it turns out, the flavor of every spice and condiment was evident to taste, but was incredibly light on the stomach.
In spite of indulging in a scrumptious meal, I did not feel ‘over-full’, as I had expected. Instead, I had the distinctive feeling of having eaten one of the lightest and non-greasy Indian meals, ever. That in itself is a huge plus point in favor of Moti Mahal.
Moti Mahal Delux offers catering service and will be opening up its second branch in Mahboula shortly. Keeping the tradition of sumptuous non-greasy, non-spicy yet delectable food alive, the branches and franchise restaurants, all maintain Moti Mahal’s strict quality standards.
Moti Mahal Delux is located on Arabian Gulf Road, Exit 5 (next to Johnny Carino’s). For reservations call 2266 7050.