Moti Mahal

We catch up with the king of Indian cuisine...

Time Out Says

Some people, and I am one of them, think you can tell a lot about a culture from its cuisine. Japanese food, for instance, is very neat, bite-sized and predominantly savoury, which is a pretty good description of a Japanese person. Indian food, on the other hand, is colourful, plentiful and so vibrant it throws itself all over you and gorges you with flavour which, it seems to me, is rather apt.

Indian restaurants, however, have not been as successful conveying the essence of India as the food they serve. Whereas the country is filled with brightness and light, Indian restaurants are dark and dingy, and have an old-fashioned habit of being decked out in Independence-era gimmickry that does little to reflect the fact that India is one of the most economically vibrant countries in the world.

Not so in Moti Mahal, a chain that has been operating in Bahrain for about four months. Despite the fact the restaurant itself is miniature (as are many others along American Ally in Juffair), the interior has been brilliantly designed to effervesce the India of today. Brash silver fittings that would not look out of place in an ice bar are paired with dark silken napkins and sleek orange and brown furnishings to emulate the crisp new style of India’s elite. If the restaurant were a city, it would be Bangalore for sure.

The menu here is pretty extensive but with an apparent emphasis on paneer, which crops up all over the place: stuffed in a tandooried potato, slipped into curry and mashed up with vegetables. Moti Mahal is also one of the few restaurants to have a decent range of seafood dishes. India has a great love of seafood, and the coastal towns are overrun with fish. But for some reason in practically every Indian restaurant around the world you’d be lucky to find so much as a curried eel. The menu at Moti Mahal is awash with aquatic treats.

On this occasion I’d invited with me a picky vegetarian. Vegetarians are great if you are heading to a restaurant with a salad bar, because they practically decamp to the serving station and you don’t hear from them again until they roll out stuffed with sweet corn. Elsewhere, they attempt to manipulate the menu until it looks like it has slipped out of a supplement on tofu treats.

At Moti Mahal, to start, we ordered a vegetable kebab platter. It wasn’t my first choice, as I imagined a few skewers of soya beef and a roasted tomato. What came was well above expectations: paneer stuffed potatoes, succulent tandoori mushrooms and a vegetable kebab that was almost as good as the meat variety.

For the main course I felt obliged to opt for a paneer lababdar. I’ve never fancied the idea of a cheese curry, which has a similar ring to offal stew in my ears. In practise the dish was a surprise and even though paneer will never be my favourite cheese, it does go rather well in curry. We paired the paneer with a gosht saagwala (and was impressed with the large chunks of succulent lamb), mahi tikka tawa masala (which I thought was a clear winner in terms of taste), and a channa pindi for good measure. Nothing that arrived on the table would have looked out of place at some of the best Indian restaurants in London, and all for a fraction of the price. Even the vegetarian didn’t complain, which in my experience means it’s terrific.

The bill (for two)
Vegetable kebab platter BD3.500
Paneer lababdar BD2.500
Gosht saagwala BD3.300
Mahi tikka tawa masala BD3.600
Channa pindi BD2.200
2 basmati rice BD2.200
Methi roti BD0.200
Tandoori roti BD0.300
2 bottles of water BD1.000
Total (incl tax/service) BD20.680

By Time Out Bahrain staff  | 24 Dec 2009

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12:00 PM to 11:59 PM
Sunday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PMMonday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PMTuesday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PMWednesday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PMThursday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PMFriday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PMSaturday: 12:00 PM to 11:59 PM
Show number 17 825 333
Manama, Adliya, Shabab Ave, Manama, Bahrain

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