I must confess that despite having an Indian girl for a BFF and a tangechi AhPa, I know very little about India and its culture, let alone their cuisine. The closest thing I know of its culture are Slumdog Millionairre, Pussycat Doll’s version of Jai Ho and Aishwarya Rai (who’s piercing and mesmerising eyes adorn the walls of my office). Heck, the only Bollywood movie I’ve ever been exposed to until today, or at least 8-minutes of it, was the song and dance scene from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
Tum paas aaye, yun muskuraaye
You came close, smile like this
Tumne na jaane kya, sapne dikhaaye
You don’t know what dreams you showed me
Ab to mera dil jaage na sota hai
Now my heart is neither awake nor asleep
Kya karoon haaye
What can I do?
Kuch kuch hota hai
Oh, something is happening
Gosh, that sounded horny. Then again, what do I know about Hindi lyrics? Anyway, if you ever find yourself in a predicament like myself, there’s a place I know you can go. It’s called the Maharaj.
Located in the older side of Petaling Jaya and housed in an old bungalow along Jalan Gasing, this place offers you a crash course on all things India. From the moment you walk in, you’ll be greeted by a riot of colourful wall fresco (painted by a real artist/actor friend of the owner). The artwork varies from one wall to another and has so co-relations with each other, is meant to be a
passage journey of Indian art, cuisine, lifestyle and culture. The wall behind the counter was adorned with a scene from the Ramayana story, while our dinner table was set next to painted ornate haveli windows of the opulent Rajastani palaces. From our table we also had a Emperor Shah Jahan’s view of the Taj Mahal and a cheeky Kamasutra-like painting right at the dim end of the restaurant.
The owner, Ilan Giovan, also takes inspiration of his menu from all over his motherland. If it weren’t for Marian Eu’s invitation that evening, I wouldn’t have learned so much about Indian cuisine in one sitting. And for that, I truly thank you for the dining experience. Let’s talk about the dishes now:
Without any disrespect to any Indians reading this post, call me ignorant but I truly never knew Indian cuisines were capable of serving up vegetable dishes that are not mushed up. This julienne vegetable fried with lemon juice, was a refreshing eye opener and an appetite starter too.
Perfect for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Made from potato, cauliflower and cottage cheese filling, its texture is not unlike a vadai (savoury Indian doughnut) is soft and pillowy.
Meet Cuchumber’s mayonnaise-filled cousin. Perfect to cool down your tongue when the dishes get too hot for you.
Mixed Kebab Platter
A colourful plate of meat and seafood skewers: Minced Lamb, Fish Hariyali, Chicken Kebab, Chicken Tikka and Prawn Kebab. My favourite has got to be the fish with a coat of green chili and prawn kebabs which has a nice zing. The chicken kebabs were juicy and tender too.
Tiger Prawn Tawa Masala
Served on a hotplate (tawa), these beautiful prawns were smeared with masala spices and cook until the spices become a nice otak-otak like crusty layer. If I’m not wrong, this tasty dish originated from the province of Goa.
Royal Mince Mutton Bryani & Garlic Rice
Both rice dishes were very fragrant and should be avoided at all course if you’re trying to cut carbs from your diet. It was hard to stop once you have a spoonful, especially the beautiful and light garlic rice.
This is almost like a korma in my opinion. Was told that the sauce was made with ground cashews and a mixed of with garlic and tomato puree. How’s that not a korma eh? Anyway, this was a very mild dish with hardly a hint of spiciness to it. One of my favourite tastewise too.
The squid were not over cooked and was fresh as can be. Nicely cooked in a puree of onions, tomatoes and chili.
Various Naan Bread
Choose your favourites or try it all. Plain, garlic, with sesame, kulcha (literally means ‘stuffed’) with cottage cheese, potatoes or onions, and dried fruits. My favourite has always been the sweetish Kashmiri bread that goes oh-so-well with the variety of sauces on the table.
Mutton Rogan Gosht
A popular Kahsmiri dish, but the one served here was lackluster. Not sure if it was the taste overall or the chewy mutton, but I’ve had better.
Black Pomfret in Masala Sauce
Love this dish. Reminds me of a Nyonya fish dish, but only peppered with masala sauce. The fish was perfectly deep fried. Crispy skin and firm flesh on the inside.
In all my eating experience with my BFF, I’ve never seen her loved any vegetable dishes as the Palak Paneer. She who once said, “Why waste stomach space on vegetables?” practically finished the bowl of spinach with cottage cheese like Popeye.
I’ve never tried this dish before. This paste-like dish was made out of 9 types of vegetables, dried fruits and cooked in a cashew nut gravy, was wonderfully balanced in taste. Sweet and salty at the same time.
Dessert Trio – Mango Kulfi, Gulab Jamun and Carrot Halwa
I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Indian desserts, but I liked the rich tasting and saffron-coloured kulfi. The Halwa was also a new thing to me, was gorgeous and delicate in taste.
Maharaj is a place to go if you’re sick of mamak-style Nasi Kandar places and would like a nice place to chill and be treated like a king. I’ve been told that prices here are quite decent. There is also a bar outside in its courtyard where you can enjoy some beers and wine too.
59 Jalan Gasing
46000 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7968 5515
Opening hours: Daily, 11.30am to 3.00pm, 6.30pm to 11.00pm