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moti mahal, london, aaaargh

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Restaurants & Bars 2

moti mahal, london, aaaargh

howler | Dec 1, 2005 06:07 AM

last night was magical, last night was unreal. it can happen, it is in the realm of possibility: i had one of the best punjabi restaurant meals of my life last night in a restaurant outside the beloved desh.

it undoubtedly helped that i was dining with my punjabi 'uncle' and 'auntie' from bombay (every close friend of the family elder to you is automatically uncle/auntie in india). we sat down to eat at 7.30 and the place was empty; chef anirudh arora came over to pay his respects to uncle and auntie. as uncle still is copper chimney's chartered accountant and as anirudh once did a stint in copper chimney, there was a lot to chat about.

i learned a bit of history in that chat: tandoori cooking was brought by moti mahal to delhi in 1948 (1949?) from india's northwest - the idea took off so spectacularly that pretty much every restaurant in india morphed into tandoori, chinese or idli/dosa. today india, tomorrow the world. so moti mahal is teh original sinner that drove all the regional restaurants out of business ...

anyway, the meal was superb. the kaali dal was stunning, the butter chicken was perfect, the mutton melted in my mouth. gobi methi and baingaan bhartha could have been home made. and supreme of supremes, the tandoori roti was exquisitely crisp and hot.

bizaarely, we had amuse things before and after the kababs: a small pastry wrapped something before and a ginger sorbet after. so moti mahal's gone up market with the formula of sticking to basic punjabi restaurant fare, executing it superbly, and then trying to get the faux french types with things like ginger sorbet. thats fine with me. at least i didn't see 'rolled loin of pork in a saffron biryani' or some nonsense like that.

one more bit of info: after the meal, when i practically wept into anirudhs bosom, we had a chat about benares. i remember eating there a year ago and thinking how dreadful everything was. wasn't anirudh there then? yes, but not in the kitchen. aaaah that explains it.

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