Yesterday night, I went to Maurya for the second time. I made reservations on Friday through their website. I got an email confirming the reservation. When I was making up the map, I thought that I should also print the email confirming our reservation, just in case. I am glad I did.
We walked in 10 minutes before our 7pm reservation, to be told that the restaurant was closed for a private "mehndi" party (mehndi in this context is the Indian pre-wedding ceremony where the bride's hands and feet are decorated with henna in intricate patterns). I told them I had a reservation - but they were surprised, and could not find it on their books. I talked to the owner (whom I met on the first visit) and he said "No Problems, it is our mistake - we can seat you outside". It was a pleasant enough evening, so that suited us fine. The Sikh maitre-de who had sent the confirming email came by later and apologized saying he had not checked the date when he sent the confirming email. They need to smoothen out their online procedure by adding date, time, and other pertinent information when they send emails - I am assuming that the email reservations ops is new and will work out the bugs with experience.
Before our third and fourth dining companions joined us, the two of us ordered the mango lassi. It was quite good, but nothing outstanding. They served two chutneys with crisps - these were made of the Indian papadum, really light, but also shaped like the new Doritos scoops - easier to scoop up the chutneys. The green mint chutney I found was so so, but the tamarind chutney was outstanding - with hints of garlic(?) and chiles.
After the other two joined us we ordered as follows:
1) Harra Kabab - stuffed spinach kabab - fresh spinach and vegetable patties blended with mild spices, stuffed with nutty cottage-cheese and chopped cilantro. This also came with a slightly different green chutney. Four small cakes, and while the taste is quite good, at $6.95 I am not sure it is a great value for an appetizer.
2) I wanted to try the Murgh Shaan-E-Maurya (Stuffed Chicken Drumsticks) - but this was not available! So we orderd the papri chaat - crisp ajwain laced flour savory with crushed lentil dumplings.... this was good, and satisfying. But this is also available at any of the Little India chaat houses, so not a dish I would go back to.
1) Adraki(Gingery) Lamb Chops - baby lamb chops marinated in ginger juice, black peppers and special blend of spices with yogurt and done in a clay oven. This dish is not available at most Indian restaurants, and was The Outstanding dish for the meal. The lamb was extremely tender, with a crisped outer crust. You could tell the flavor of ginger and yogurt with every bite. The only regret was it had only 3 chops and we were 4 at the table.
2) Dum Ki Bharwan Jhinga Kesari - Stuffed prawns with saffron - Partly baked stuffed tiger prawns cooked in carom (?? - I don't know what this spice is) and cardamom gravy in a dum pukht style - abundant large prawns wrapped around some kind of stuffing, but I could not tell because of the creamy sauce. Unfortunately most Indian restaurants end up with liberal usage of cream. I suspect they do so because the somewhat muddy textures of Indian home cooked gravies are somewhat off-putting to western palates, and high end Indian restaurants "silken" out the texture with use of cream. But sometimes it becomes overwhelming and this was one of those dishes.
3) Murg tikka jeera makhni - Chicken Tikka Makhni with cumin seeds - boneless cubes of marinated chicken partly barbequed in clay oven and finished in an onion-tomatoey gravy with honey, cream, and black cumin seeds - with one American in the party, we had to order an equivalent of CTM - so this was it. The slight sweetness from the honey proved slightly off-putting to one of our Indian eaters, but I and the others liked this immensely. This is also perfect for a party that includes kids - they will like this dish over others.
4) Paneer Pudina Masala - cottage cheese with spinach and mint leaves - cubes of Indian cottage cheese cooked in combination of spinach and fresh mint leaves - this was a nice contrast in green to the reddish gravies of the previous two dishes - for my taste, a stronger hand with the mint leaves would have been perfect. I am going to adapt our paneer saag at home to include mint from now on.
5) Dal-E-Maurya - Black whole lentils simmered overnight on a slow fire, spiced, combined with fresh tomatoes and enriched with fresh cream and unsalted butter - this was the dish that stood out on my first visit and going in I told my friends that we must order this - it stood up to my memory! Wow! Better than the dal at Delhi's Maurya Sheraton's Bukhara! It was so good that at the end of the meal, the table decided to order one more round of this dish with an extra round of plain rice. And I am not a big fan of the black lentils they use for this dish. Consider it the best split pea soup you will ever have cooked Indian style.
6) For dessert we wanted to try their pistachio kulfi and fig kulfi - they were out of the former. But the fig kulfi, again something you only get here and no other Indian restaurant, was outstanding. One order was sufficient for all four of us. It tastes like Canadian maple syrup flavored ice cream (hmm.... I wonder if it is truly figs or not!) - it reminded me of the Croatian fig spread that I use (from Whole Foods) to spread over brie and melt in the microwave. Just the perfect way to finish a wonderful meal.
All three of my dining companions (2 were Indians) noted this was the best Indian meal they had in several years.
While halfway through the meal, I noticed someone step out of a car at the curb (reserved for valet parking) - and the valet told him the restaurant was closed. He looked very familiar from some TV show - I later found out it was Dylan McDermott from The Practice. While he was talking to the valet, I indicated that he should just come in and get a seat outside, like we were doing. He came over and I said the same, so he went in, talked to the owner, and stayed for dinner outside. Apparently he has been there before.
Another side show was the Indian party going on inside. There were two buses fully loaded with Indians in their finest clothes - think Monsoon Wedding. That was quite a sideshow!
They are doing a Mother's Day special brunch for I believe $18/head from 11:30 am - 3:00 pm. I think this is quite a good value. I made a booking for our family.