I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Monday, April 10, 2006

Moti Mahal, Mumbai

I feel ashamed and outraged at this moment. Ashamed of being born in the same city as Moti Mahal. Ashamed of plugging butter chicken and tandoori raan from that particular shop in Old Delhi to people. Outraged that I agreed to go to Moti Mahal in Mumbai with the team.

However, I will keep this sense of shame and outrage aside and bring to you the bulletin of what happened in Moti Mahal last time we went.

For those who are not from this part of the world, Moti Mahal was started in Old Delhi way back in 1947. Famous early patrons included Nehru and Indira Gandhi. The place is also known by Delhi trivia buffs as the originator of Butter chicken. This might or might not be an urban legend.

I have been to that restaurant once and did enjoy it quite a bit even though, for non vegetarian food in that side of town, I will still stick to Karim's or move a little bit ahead to Majnu Ka Tilla.

Hence, with decent hopes, we trooped in to Moti Mahal one day.
We were mostly tired and did not go for the exotic stuff, at first, and ordered one tandoori chicken, some naans and rotis, one butter chicken (boneless) for us and one paneer makhani (butter paneer) for the veggies.
However, I could not let a dinner go by without a little excitement and thus ordered their burrah kabab. And yes, beer. Let me take you through what transpired after that.

Tandoori chicken: A good Tandoori chicken is soft inside, slightly smoky and full of subtle flavour from the marinade. This was nothing but. Hard pieces of old chicken which were quite overcooked on the outside and quite bloody next to the bone. The marinade was only imparting colour to the chicken as the flavour was almost missing. Not too good a start to the meal. Thankfully, there were only a few pieces and it finished early.

Naans: Were decent. Rotis were okay too.

Butter chicken: I felt cheated by the butter chicken. When I ordered a boneless butter chicken and paid a premium for the act of removing chicken for the bone, I would expect that the chicken will be left in the gravy and not removed and thrown away. However, Moti Mahal had other ideas. For a long while we fished for the chicken. Eventually, we gave up and went to the burrah kabab instead.

Burrah kabab: Burrah kabab is that evocative dish which brings to mind Bukhara and tender succulent meat around a bone, waiting to be unwrapped. We got a rather raw deal instead. Really. I should I have specified that I don't want my kababs rare. If I did, I would have asked for a tenderloin steak instead. It was a travesty and we had to bear it. Well, at least there was beer to make us bear it.

Beer: Or was there? Two 650 ml beer bottles would generally fill 4 glasses, if not more. That's the rule, isn't it? Yes, if the volume of the glasses is 300 ml or so (which is what we estimated for the Moti Mahal glasses based on over 25 years of combined beer drinking experience). Three of us were drinking beer that day.
When we finished our three glasses, we asked for the remaining to wash off the rare burrah kabab and the butter gravy.
"You want to order more beer?"
"No, we don't."
"The beer which was remaining and which you have kept away."
"No sir, the entire beer has been used. I can show you the bottles"
Now, I can take bland tandoori chicken. I can also probably handle, with remarkable sagacity, rare burrah kababs. I can, with great bitterness, turn a blind eye to lack of chicken in what is called the signature dish. However, I will not stand for theft of beer. We were too stunned to protest.

Only thing we did was mention to the manager that I will never ever come back to his restaurant and convince my foodie friends to do so as well. The manager was like the rest of the meal, unapologetic.

The scion of the Gujral Family, who runs Moti Mahal, has three hobbies: Keeping track of statistics like 1 kg of tomatoes has 250 g of puree in it; keeping track of major and minor celebrities who eat at his restaurants; and opening up Moti Mahal restaurants without keeping track of standards of taste, service or decency. He's quite successful in all three of them. My sincere hope is that he will roll back at least one of them.


Blogger Rahul Ghosh said...

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to find an essentially Bengali delicacy in a hardcore Malwani restaurant like Jai Hind. This Lower Parel eatery is known for its pomfret rawa fry, chicken sukka and neerh dosas. What pleasantly surprised me was a TODAY'S SPECIAL board that advertised Prawn Malai Curry.

Now I don't know whether it is a traditional Konkani dish or just a dash of inspiration to attract another traditional pisces-loving community. If it's the first, what a wonderful piece of culinary anthropological anecdote!

On an impulse (or call it a Pavlovian urge), it was ordered. And not bad at all, shall we say? The prawns could have been bigger. But the gravy was good enough to remind you of a Mohunbagan victory! Talking of Mohunbagan, it's a pity. They don't seem to be giving too many malai-curry ocassions these days!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 3:33:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Rahul, interesting (though far removed from Moti Mahal or my post, no?). The best dish in Jai Hind that I have had is what we call the 'calorie bombs', bombil wrapped around prawns.

Far away from what what can be find in Kolkata kitchens, but essentially, quite Bong at heart.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 3:44:00 AM

Anonymous Mowgli said...

dhoomk2, u shudn't be so rigid about comments strictly pertaining to ur posts .. u shud allow readers 'stream of consciousness' flights of fancy :D

Incidentally, my non-connoisseur palate finds Moti Mahal Bandra much better than M.Mahal Nariman Pt.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 10:52:00 PM

Blogger Pradeep said...

My experience at Moti Mahal has been quite different. I have consistently found their signature dish of Butter Chicken extremely good. The tomato puree used is always fresh & the sauce is much lighter than that found in most Shetty run Punjabi / Chinese joints in the city. The other dishes tend to be patchy although the Mutton Kheema is another standout. The service is average & you seem to have been pretty annoyed with that. I see where you are coming from.

The Moti Mahal Bandra is not a branch.

The most awesome thing I ate at JaiHind was a truly exceptional Stuffed Chutney Pomfret which was perfection itself. Rarely have I eaten such a perfectly cooked fish (Neither under nor over done). It remains to be seen whether this experience will be sustained the next time. My hats off to the chef for getting it perfect that time, though!

Thursday, October 04, 2007 7:59:00 AM

Blogger Jai Awatramani said...

I had been to moti mahal bandra yesterday, and found the restaurant absolutely bad. It was really heavy on the pocket, the service really bad, even the table cloth was unclean. The quantity was so poor that i hav no words. AFter having such a bad experience i thought to post it on the internet on some blog, and found u guys to be preety expert in restauarants. Can u suggest a place, which has good Non veg and veg food, decent on the pocket, has good service?? Any such in bandra, andheri did u find such places do tell me, if possible on my email id:- jai.awatramani@gmail.com

Friday, January 18, 2008 10:16:00 AM


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