Delectable Indian dishes spice up menu at Maharani Restaurant

I've lived in the Bassett neighborhood now for less than six weeks, and I've already fallen in love with it. The streets are lined with old oaks and rusty bicycles. Alternative coffee shops and interesting restaurants pop up in the most surprising places. One such restaurant offering authentic Indian cuisine is Maharani Restaurant, located at 380 W. Washington Ave. 

 

The meals at Maharani start with a bizarre, sesame-laden cracker and three small bowls of dipping sauce. Try a tiny bit of each sauce, and then wash your mouth out with soap and spring for a couple orders of naan. Naan, pronounced nahn, is the same word Parisian women scream at you in their shops when you pick up an antique Revolutionary War saber and try to poke your friend. Trust me, I know. Naan, unleavened bread baked in a tandoor oven, is a thing of beauty. Maharani's naan is crispy and slightly buttery on the outside, but chewy and thick inside. You get four decent size pieces for $1.95. A couple takeout orders of this and some Malibu and Cokes make a mighty fine meal, a mighty fine meal indeed.  

 

If you're sticking to traditional Indian beverages, get a mango milk shake or a lassi, a sweet and salty yogurt drink to accompany your meal. You can't beat the price ($2.50), and both come in a nifty hurricane glass. 

 

Maharani has an impressive selection of tempting appetizers for both vegetarians and carnivores. Overall, I've been unimpressed by their starters, most of which are fried beyond recognition or based on tasteless chopped potatoes. A highlight of the menu is the cheese pankora - a tiny, salty sandwich with homemade cheese and chickpeas. The fish-based appetizers and savory soups are all quite bland and should be skipped altogether. 

 

Choosing a dinner from Maharani's extensive menu is like trying to pick your favorite Chippendale dancer - a delightful, yet impossible exercise. The choices seem endless and encompass a variety of vegetables and meat, including lamb, shrimp and goat. I find it easiest to choose a genre, such as chicken or cauliflower, and then narrow down the options. I enjoy both their beef and lamb curry - the spices mingle wonderfully with the light yogurt-onion base and the ginger stands out in the delicious sauce. I would recommend the lamb dishes in general, if for no other reason than lamb is an excellent meat, which is seriously lacking in most student diets. The lamb moghlai, no relation to the lovable Jungle Book character, is a standout dish, blending tomatoes and mushrooms with fresh cream and spices.  

 

The chicken mango is one of my favorites as well and vaguely similar to my childhood standby, sweet 'n' sour chicken. Beef Shahkorma, an unusual combination of braised beef, almonds, raisins and heavy cream is another dish I would definitely recommend.  

 

All dinners come with basmati rice, but the table shares a pretty meager bowl, so you may want to order an extra bowl ($2.50) right away. 

 

The only dessert I've sampled from Maharani is kulfi - a sweet, dense ice cream made with a variety of chopped nuts. Don't be alarmed by the small serving size of this delicious confection - kulfi is so rich you can barely finish a single scoop. My friends tell me kheer, basmati rice cooked in sweetened condensed milk, is quite good as well. Not a single dessert on the menu is over three dollars. 

 

I would highly recommend Maharani to anyone who loves ethnic food and is sick of falafel and egg rolls. The food at Maharani is tasty and affordable. Best of all, they bring you warm moist towels at the end of every meal. And God knows, that's really what keeps me coming back. 

 

Do you have a favorite ethnic food restaurant that doesn't serve falafel and eggrolls? Tell Caroline about it. E-mail her at clmueller@wisc.edu. 

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Cardinal.