Tag Archives: Karama

Maharaja Bhog: eat like a king!

Indian hospitality is fabled. So much so that restaurants, the world over, offer the royal Indian hospitality. If you are looking to spoil yourself or indulge your family and friends in some ‘food royalty’, then take them to Maharaja Bhog, nestled in Ansar Mall, Karama, Dubai.

Wife and I sat by the spice walls in the restaurant, waiting to be fed till we’d give up. Hospitality is tradition here. Maharaja Bhog started its culinary journey in 2011 and has outlets in Mumbai, Bangalore, Houston (US) and Dubai. Buttermilk arrived at the table. And we started off with that.

The delicious royal thali at Maharaja Bhog
The delicious royal thali at Maharaja Bhog

In olden days, a meal in a royal household was a grand affair. Varied metal tableware spoke of opulence. The main plate is a big plate, with a rather huge diameter and in it fits in various bowls in a stellar line up. Each bowl has a different dish that is ladled into it. Each dish is made with ingredients that are chosen for royal consumption with a sign of nuts, saffron or clarified butter. The rest of the space on the plate is for rice and different breads. Aristocratic families in various parts of India, still like to eat in this traditional manner. Certainly not meant for the middle class, lunch-on-the-go, sorts. Dining, royalty style, is certainly meant for the Indian “la dolce vita”. Meanwhile, an array of snacks arrived on the plate. Those appetizers are served with different chutneys that heighten taste buds and whet up your appetite.

I didn't know beetroots could do that!
I didn’t know beetroots could do that!

Maharaja Bhog makes me feel, just that. The name of the restaurant means exactly what I explained laboriously – feast for a king. The beauty of dining at MB is that mathematically speaking, you will never be eating the same food twice. Unless you work there and eat there. 30 days 30 menus is what they go by. Each dish is beautifully made, keeping in mind the 4 pillars of taste. All dishes are vegetarian and come from the 2 western states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. I was so surprised to see red coloured ‘puri’s. I learnt that those were made from beetroot. I was so happy with the lovely experimentation that I didn’t refuse any servings of those deep red shallow fried bread.

Remember to say hello to the mild-mannered restaurant manager Susheel-ji. Watch carefully as the army of servers do not talk to each other or scream across the floor. Instead, they have a sign language by which they communicate what is required on each table. It is a strange pantomime act and it gets food on your plate each time. Next time, I will learn it, for sure. I wasn’t very sure when I got bitter gourd served. I remember my mother molly-coddling me to eat some. I tried a little of it and immediately attacked it for more. The bitterness of the gourd was carefully neutralised by the sweetness from the onions. I think mom would have been happy to see me eat this.

This was my 3rd visit to the outlet and it has never let me down. Consistency of taste is what it takes for anybody to make a name in the F&B industry. Maharaja Bhog’s corporate chef Gulabji is the reason for this. He is responsible for training and operation in all branches. With a robust mechanism like this, little surprise that Maharaja Bhog is also gearing up to have more restaurants. Many more cities across the globe will be welcome to Indian hospitality and taste.

Table reservations recommended. There gets a long waiting-line on weekends.

#BurpAndBelch meter : 4.5 burps

#5WordFoodReview : Recommend Skip Breakfast For Lunch

 

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Rasoi Ghar – serve me food, not English!

Rasoi Ghar in Karama is a veggie haven, focussing on Western Indian cuisine. It seems they are aiming to place themselves as a fine dine, experiential restaurant. There are traditional and modern gimmicks like finger-wash and menu-on-tablet that can regale the customer. Truth is that it will be the food and service that will remain key.

Warm staff but I did not, for the life of me, understand why did they have to speak in English even when spoken to in Hindi? Performance pressure? Or does food taste better if spoken to in English? And I am not talking grammar, here.

Food is served fresh and clean but here’s my take:

Food Temperature: should be constant. Seconds served should not have a change in temperature. If you are aiming to be a different beat, then these finer points need to be incorporated.

Repetition: Too many staff members, crowding on a table to serve and repeat the name of a dish. My food experience gets ‘nervy’ seeing so many people focussing on one table. But when you ask why Kolhapuri Paneer is tasting like Kadhai Paneer, there isn’t an answer!

Serving Etiquette: A server, mistakenly, poured the wrong dal in my bowl. He should have changed the bowl but didn’t. Why should my sweet dal taste of kadhi?

Recipe compatibility: I am not sure I have been served Dal Khichdi and Veg Biryani together, in India. Ever. is this not trying too hard?

Overall good food but not great. I could easily forget the 7 – 8 dishes I ate. Liked the corn halwa (didn’t mind it soaked in ghee).

#BurpAndBelch meter: 2.5

#5WordFoodReview: Do Something Memorable With Food

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Rasoi Ghar
Call: +971 4 5509119

Zainal Mohebi Plaza, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road, Opposite Centrepoint, Al Karama, Dubai

2nd Chances and a Thali

I had mercilessly dissed them almost two years back. I had a change of heart to see how things have fared with 800-THALI. After all, everybody deserves a second chance.

The menu online hasn’t changed, neither has the humour. What has changed, delightfully though, is the attitude of the staff taking the order. Gentleman made recommendations, wherever required, took down my order, repeated it without my egging and offered desserts to order! Thankfully, he didn’t seem like a man who needed to visit the nearest loo, as most other tele-stewards (I made that one up for those that take orders over the phone) in the UAE unfailingly do. He gave me time and that gives me a reason to smile.

I ordered the same Bhuna Gosht that I had ordered last time apart from Chicken Kadhai and Chapatis. Although the order reached me rather late, the food was warm and did not look traffic-fatigued. I must say I was impressed when the restaurant called me up twice to tell me of the delay.

Now for the food – the chapatis are just what you need after a hard day’s work – absolutely home-made sorts. Full marks. The mutton was cooked to the right degree and the gravy was rich and flavourful. The salt was a bit on the higher side but I would give them the benefit of the doubt.

Overall, 800-THALI seems to have eaten the humble pie and piped down their tone. I have 2 earnest suggestions to make.

One: refresh the menu.

Two: with a name like 800-THALI, make your thalis available round the clock and not just during lunch time.

Residents in JLT have a reason to rejoice as 800-THALI is readying to open doors to dine-in customers from mid-April. For more call toll-free on 800-84254 or visit 800thali.com.

While on thalis, here’s a place that is a haven for vegetarians wanting to eat a lavish thali that is fit for a king!

Maharaja Bhog Premium Thali
Maharaja Bhog Premium Thali

Maharaja Bhog, located next to Ansar Gallery in Karama, is a delightful den for a vegetarian option, especially if one wants to experience an Indian sit down feast.

Highlights are flavours from Gujarat and Rajasthan. Portion controlled (although you can ask for seconds and thirds), delicious and filling. I was particularly happy in the detailing of the preparations for example the carom seeds in the ‘puri’ – puffed, shallow fried Indian bread is delightful.
Not sure if it is a very child-friendly place, but a good option for dining with family and friends.
Expect a waiting time before you get to eat.

Call 04 2790300 extension 201 (reservation recommended)

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Also published on http://www.masala.com/the-best-thalis-in-town-190622.html

Chāt It Up!

Chat. Or Chāt. This simple, 4 letter word, finds a huge resonance in the lives of most South Asians. The first usage would be in English and the second would be in Hindi (or Urdu). Truth is, no Indian or Pakistani, can ever survive without either.

The CHAAT of good times
The CHAAT of good times

This is no occasion to discuss the English meaning, so we steer over to the vernacular connotations of ‘chāt’. Chāt is a culture. It is about the times when people are out, no matter what the barometer reads, to stuff their faces with their favourite chāt. A good chāt goes a long way in cementing relationships, finding new love, downing after-office hunger pangs and getting over boredom. A chāt centre is also a study of brand building – be it in the way the cart owner greets new customers or by giving a little something extra to repeat customers. Remember, your local chāt-waley bhaiyya? You might not remember his name, but you still remember him as chāt-waley bhaiyya! That is branding and recall!

A good chāt can define a person, shop, locality, and city even. If you don’t believe me, as any Indori about their chāt locality called ‘Chhappan’ and brace up to not talk for the next 20 minutes because you are salivating like Garfield in front of canned tuna.

The humble chāt is a tasty mix of flavours and spices, hot and cold textures, sweet and savoury and has many, shall we say, variations to it. A chāt menu can be very exhaustive and more challenging than an agency copy test. For those that know, salivate thinking of aloo tikka chat, papdi chaat, dahi bhalla, gol gappey, sev puri, bhel puri, jhaal moori! It’s just scratching the top, really. In fact nobody has considered it seriously but there is a chāt critic in all South Asians. We are the same commentators who feel that Sachin Tendulkar should have hit the ball a little to the off-side; and the tamarind chutney in the chāt is not tangy enough.

The experience of eating chāt starts long before a loaded plate is handed over. It begins with the customer peering over to see all the ingredients laid out, in invitation. Sorry Subway, move over; we’ve been at it since Adam’s. Then it is the magic of the person who loads up goodies on the plate and sprinkles different masalas with more aplomb than Emiril. Bam! Swirl on some spicy, tangy chutney, throw on some ginger juliennes and there you have it – the perfect plate of chāt.

That modest chāt assumes different hues of taste and flavour as one travels across the length and breadth of India. Newer items get added to the family of chat. Sometimes, popular chāt items get known in 3 or 4 different names. Of course there are epicurean critics who can theorise the difference in anatomy of a Bengali ‘phuchka’ to that of a Punjabi ‘gol-gappe’ over its Western poor cousin ‘pani puri’. So you see, getting together a plate of chāt right, is perhaps, tougher than pleasing Gordon Ramsey. Should you find anybody who can make the perfect chāt, marry the person!

One of the first things I was looking for when I landed in Dubai was a good chāt. My search took long with many trials, re-trials and tribulations. I am listing down the top 5 places where you can get a good chāt.

My recommendations are:

  1. Elco Chat Center in Karama for Pani Puri. Bengali’s might want to drive till the border of Sharjah for some ‘Phuchka’ at Calcutta Fast Food.
  2. Chatori Galli for some North Indian style treats like Papdi Chaat, Raj Kachodi and Jalebi Chaat.
  3. Urban Tadka (Karama / Discovery Gardens) for Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Ragda Pattice and Pani Puri with Ragda.
  4. Puranmal for Vada Pao, Aloo Bonda.
  5. Bombay Chowpatty for Samosa Chaat, Dahi Bade, Papdi Chaat.

Now, if the desi in you is doing a jig because you are yearning that sunshine back home with street feasts and unending hours of fun while hot cups of ‘chai’ keep arriving along with piping hot samosas and vada paos, then, this is news for you.

The first-ever Masala Food Fair is here. 2 days of desi picnics, street-eats, and restaurant favourites, celebrity-sighting (Raveena Tandon promises to show up – wipe that gravy) and live cooking demo by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor! Save the dates – 20th and 21st of February at Zabeel Park, Dubai. Log on to masala.com/foodfair for more or look up #MasalaFoodFair on Twitter.

You will probably spot me there with a spoon in hand. See you there!

PS: my auto correct has resigned. It couldn’t agree with all the desi street eats thrown in here!

Also featured on Masala Magazine Online: http://www.masala.com/masala-food-fair-special-5-places-in-dubai-that-serve-best-chats-188871.html