As the appetite wilts under the summer sun, I’m once again reminded of the exciting outings the EOiD gang have had over the past winter.
For instance, the arrival of a friend from the US occasioned an impromptu EOiD field trip in early December. For ideas on where to go we looked to Harneet, who recommended his childhood haunt, Moti Mahal in Daryaganj.
Moti Mahal is a landmark in Delhi’s culinary history. Set up shortly after independence in 1947, it boasts of having introduced the recipes for everything from tandoori chicken and butter chicken to burra kabaabs. The restaurant is a curiously mixed highbrow and lowbrow experience. Setting the tone even before you enter is an imposing valet who promptly takes the key to park your car — a manoeuvre involving riding it up the sidewalk. As you step inside, you come into a sumptuous courtyard — where the arrangements involve sitting on plastic chairs. And as you settle down and daintily dip your fingers into the proffered warm bowls of water, your ears quail at the sounds of the predictably off-key ghazal singing (the choice of songs was, in much the same spirit, a mix of the best of the patrician and the plaebian — Himesh Reshammaiya tunes belted out with as much relish as Ghalib’s qalaam).
But that only helps focus your mind on the food, and we left no holds barred when we ordered ours — which included everything from Paneer Shashlik, Bharwaan Aloo and Makhani Daal for the principled vegetarians to the Reshami Kabaab, Burra Kabaab, Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, and Tandoori Chicken for the rambunctious carnivores. The service was surprisingly quick and the food was unsurprisingly delicious. Personally I think it was the best butter chicken I’ve ever had. (A second foray a few days later yielded other recommendations from the menu — the Kalmi Kabaab and the Khasta Roti. It seems fair to say that you can pretty much pick what you want from the menu; you won’t go wrong.) The stunning discovery of the day though, was that this original* Moti Mahal of Darya Ganj has no branch! I have a feeling there has been a split in the family, because at least some of the other places (usually called Moti Mahal Delux) are, I believe, run by the descendents of the original. A multitude of others have never let a complete lack of genetic connection deter them from profiting from the name. I will leave it to those better-informed to decide whether the food elsewhere is up to the standards of the Daryaganj one. In the meanwhile, a big thumbs up for the original. Having taken a nice old Romanian lady and a Bangladeshi-born American resident there by now, I can also assure you that this is a good place to take your friends from abroad — and with some luck, they won’t even figure out that the music is, shall we say, a tad quirky!
Location: very close to Golcha cinema on Netaji Subhash Marg in Daryaganj. Map
Expense: Unless you get really carried away, it should be easily possible to spend less than Rs. 300 per head.
(photo courtesy: Rashed)
* update (Dec 14, 2008): EOiD member Samil Malhotra has gone into the vexed question of which is the “original” Moti Mahal in some detail. Read about it here.