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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