A taste of India in Maharaj

Exactly a week ago, I almost fell off my chair when I received a phone call from Eu Hooi Khaw. I mean, come on… Eu Hooi Khaw calling me??! And that call was to invite me to join her for dinner… at a place called Maharaj. The invitation was on behalf of the owner, Mr Ilan Govan who’s a close friend of hers. Her directions to the place were: “it’s along Jalan Gasing, PJ, in a bungalow lot next to a furniture shop”.

I had a vague idea of where the restaurant could be. It was a rainy stormy night and somehow I made a turn somewhere and before I knew it, there’s this huge lighted signboard by the road which said “59 Jalan Gasing” and I knew I had arrived at Maharaj! It was still raining when I parked the car and when I looked up after switching off the engine, there was this friendly service crew who had appeared instantly by my car bearing an umbrella! Such is the thoughtful and excellent service provided by Maharaj, as the evening unveiled later.

When I entered the restaurant, I was awestruck by this vibrantly colourful wall painting by their reception…

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As I looked around, my senses were immediately struck by so much colours everywhere! Every imaginable hue of the rainbow had been painted on the walls, with paintings so alive and vibrant with details…

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Our host, Ilan Govan graciously explained the passion behind his restaurant and I had such an education that evening, learning about the intricacies and history of Indian cuisine. According the Ilan, “Maharaj” actually means “Accomplished Chef”, a prestigious title bestowed by the maharajas on deserving chefs. Maharaj serves a wide selection of dishes from all over India and that’s a lot, considering that India is such a vast country! From Goa to Hyderabad, each dish is iconic in its representation of the history and culture of the place.

Our Appetizers started with this Chuchumber

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… a delightful salad of cucumber, carrots, capsicum, onions tossed in lime and a sprinkling of spices…

Another dish of almost-similar salad was served, but this was mixed with yoghurt and mayonnaise… a concoction that’s bound to open up your palate for more…

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Next came the Vegetable Kebabs… these had potatoes & cauliflower mashed, mixed with cottage cheese and spices and then grilled in a tandoori oven. Not overly spicy, these kebabs were delicious – warm fillings encased in a crispy “skin”!

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The Platter of Mixed Kebabs which came next had scrumptious sticks of Hariyali Fish, Prawns, Minced Lamb, Chicken Tikka… all arranged nicely…

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I found the Minced Lamb a tad too spicy… but no worries, a few mouthfuls of the Chuchumber and yoghurt salad allayed that! I loved the hariyali fish and prawns kebab – fresh succulent morsels that we could not get enough of… and the Chicken Tikka did not disappoint either.

Tawa Prawns. Ilan enlightened us that “tawa” means “hotplate”. Medium-sized tiger prawns encrusted in a layer of masala marinade, grilled on a hotplate and this is what you get…

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Thumbs-up were all around for this dish! The tiger prawns were suitably succulent, dripping with sublime juices and the masala crust was not overly spicy which had us cleaning up every crumb, hehe!

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Thereafter, we were served with Squid Vindaloo… yummy rings of squids cooked in their signature vindaloo paste…

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Kashmiri Mutton Rogan Gosht- tender chunks of mutton had been meticulously simmered in spices & herbs…

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Chicken Hyderabadi – this was very mild. The gravy was thick from the concoction of blended cashew nuts with a tinge of sourish piquancy from the tomatoes added. This really went well with the naans and rice…

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Talking about the rice and naans, allow me to show you how decadent we got with the carbs!

A beautiful pot of the most fragrant steamed basmati Garlic Rice

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… and an assortment of Naans, fresh from the tandoori oven – we had a choice of plain, garlic, stuffed and the sweet Kashmiri version (stuffed with chopped cherries & almonds)…

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Royal Minced Mutton Briyani… I could eat this happily on its own.

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With all the lovely crispy naans, we needed more gravy & spices to mop them up with… and so our wish was granted.

Enter the Black Pomfret in Spicy Masala! Black pomfret fish has been marinaded and deepfried with masala – a most appetising dish for rice and naans.

This was the most difficult item to photograph – every angle of it looked like a mound of orangey masala as the fish had been (almost) completely covered. OK, I managed to capture this part of the tail – so it still looks like a fish, no?

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At this point, we were already full till bursting point (almost!) but our gracious and amiable host had more coming for us…

The Navaratna Kurma – something not very common, I must say. According to Ilan, 9 types of vegetables and dried fruits went into this vegetarian dish…

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The Navaratna Kurma was served simultaneously with the ever-popular traditional northern indian delicacy Palak Paneer… smooth cottage cheese blended and married with spinach, resulting in soft tasty textures – I couldn’t stop dipping my naan in this!

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Finally it was Desserts time! When Ilan mentioned the desserts to be served – Gulab Jamun, Kulfi and Carrots Halwa, I could practically see A Whiff Of Lemongrass’ eyes lighting up!

I generally find Indian sweets to be too sweet for me, but then these are great in cooling off the fieriness of spices… so we all dug in!

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Kulfi – made from fresh cow’s milk, almonds, pistachios and saffron (that explains the yellow colour) – all blended and chilled into this smooth ice-cream-like dessert.

Gulab Jamun – fried ghee balls, served soaking in syrup.

Carrots Halwa – grated carrots, almonds, cashews, pistachios, cardamoms cooked in sugar, milk and ghee.

All these certainly ended our meal on a sweet note :-))

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Besides serving delicious authentic Indian cuisine – their chefs are all from India, by the way, Maharaj houses a good selection of arts and craft items – all of which are for sale.

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Ilan’s passion for this place is evident – it’s not merely a restaurant, but a centre for Indian Arts, Culture + Cuisine.

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The spacious restaurant can seat 1,200 people. There is a private room too, if you want to host an intimate party ;-)

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Styled like an old elegant Jaipur mansion, this place is perfect for private functions.

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Oh, they do catering, too. If you are planning a party for your guests to have a unique authentic taste of India, why not give Ilan a tinkle?

It was an evening of great food, educational for me too, fun lively conversations & laughter (with some monkeying around, hehe!) … and I went home with a tummy filled with warm spices & sweets – what more can one ask for?

Thank you once again, Hooi Khaw and Ilan for the kind invitation.

Maharaj
59 Jalan Gasing
Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7968-5515

Maharaj Original Indian Food

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12 Responses to “A taste of India in Maharaj”

  1. babe_kl
    May 11, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    i felt like singing and dancing round the trees after reading this! loved the colourful murals too!

  2. Lyrical Lemongrass
    May 11, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    I love your writeup! Nice ambience pictures too! Looking forward to hanging out with you again!

  3. PureGlutton
    May 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Babe-KL: Wow, you are putting images in my head now *imagining Babe doing the Bollywood routine*!!!

  4. PureGlutton
    May 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    LL: Thank you :-) Compliments from the Queen of DSLR (now Queen of GF1too) means a lot!
    Yeah, we'll be hanging out soon ;-)

  5. J
    May 12, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Oh my – what a beautiful restaurant! :)
    (Mmmmm.. and the food looks great too! Except the yellowness of of the kulfi is a little bit scary – haha….)

  6. thule a.k.a leo
    May 12, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    *groan* feel so hungry now

  7. Hooi-Khaw
    May 12, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    It was great meeting you! I love your pictures, especially the top ones, with the play of light. Glad you liked the food. Hope to see you again soon.

  8. PureGlutton
    May 12, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    J: Yes it is indeed a beautiful mansion-like restaurant. And yes, everything is very colourful there, including the food!

  9. PureGlutton
    May 12, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    Leo: LOL, that's always the case – hunger pangs overload when looking at food pics!

  10. PureGlutton
    May 12, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    Hooi Khaw: Thank you so much – the pleasure's entirely mine! Lovely meeting u too and hope to catch up soon!

  11. thenomadGourmand
    May 26, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    ahh..so this is the one Unka was raving abt!

  12. monalisa
    May 27, 2010 at 10:18 am #

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