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Maharaja

MaharajaIn a word: Plate filling in India.

The specs: #0362
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, TDPF; official web site, Maharaja Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Latest Maharaja news and reviews

JM ate the mango chicken.
Jim ate the lamb vindaloo.
Monnie ate the beef masala.
Nichole ate the beef jalfrazie.
We got an order of stuffed nan as well.
The bill was about $60, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM, Monnie, and Nichole gave Maharaja an A- (see our grading rubric).

We're guilty of being undereducated about Indian restaurant food. We can't speak to authenticity or technique. About the only thing we know for sure is that we both like it. A lot. Which leaves us open to suggestion, even if we're aware that the great dining company, luxurious touches (chairs pulled out for us before the meal, hot hand towels after) and somewhat rundown atmosphere at Maharaja are all weighing more heavily on our experience than the objective quality of the food.

Complicating the matter is the observation that the Indian restaurants in Madison are all pretty much alike. Our server didn't have any advice on this front either. When we asked what was good, or if there was a house specialty, he simply said, "It's all great."

So we dug in. For starters, the customary poppadum and relishes; the red onion relish was mild, the tamarind sauce on the thin side, and the green relish heavy on the cilantro. The poppadums were plain but crisp, almost too airy. We also sampled a delicious, buttery naan stuffed with raisins, sesame seeds, pistachios, anise, cinnamon and other spices.

We tried to eat family-style, which can be tricky when there are different tolerances for spiciness at the table. To Maharaja's credit they did prepare the dishes to the heat levels we requested. Jim's vindaloo was the hottest, making anyone who dared try it break out in a sweat. It still had a good flavor underneath the heat. The beef jalfrazie, a stir-fry of meat, peas, peppers and onions in tomato sauce, was second-hottest. The beef was tender, the flavors melding perfectly.

Mango chickenOn the milder end, the mango chicken was sweet and succulent even if it was originally mistaken for the beef masala by JM in one of his less proud moments. The flavors played across the whole palate, and would have been even more interesting if we'd ordered it hot. In the beef masala, the spices were good but the sauce-to-meat ratio was high. Vegetables would have been a good addition to the dish.

So, Maharaja along the Indian spectrum seems to be quite good, but nothing really blew us all away.

Comments

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Their meals for two are amazingly huge and the value is great.

My Indian Restaurant Advice:

I got to Maharani on a regular basis. My favorite dish is Navarattan Korma. It a bunch different vegetables in a cashew cream sauce. I order it medium spicy. My boyfriend has now decided that it's his favorite, too. He used to be a Mango Chicken guy. I like to have a mango martini and cheese naan.

Most of the Indian restaurants have similar menus. Maharani does have section for southern Indian dishes. I do like the dosas. They are kind of like potato-filled crepes.

You can always try the lunch buffet and try a bunch of stuff.

Taste of India on Monroe is my jam.

Hard to believe an Indian restaurant would serve beef-anything.

One would expect that cilantro chutney would be heavy on the cilantro. :)

Also on the west side is India Darbar and Swagat. Swagat is basically Maharani West, and has slightly more south Indian dishes (although really, nobody in Madison does south indian food especially well). India darbar used to have "bombay-style" specialties but I've never experienced one there.

Since most of these restaurants are owned by north indian owners, your best bets are usually the north-indian dishes - tandoori, rogan josh, korma etc. And dal - that's really the litmus of an indian restaurant - if they can make stewed chickpeas and lentils exciting, then it's a good place.

I don't think anyone in town really frements their dosa batter long enough. although that might be due more to health department regulations than culinary shortcuts.

Maharaja is one of the better Indian restaurants in Madison - although my personal favorite is The Taj on South Park Street. Their lunch buffet is good. I'm always a pakora fan - and I recommend korma to Indian cuisine newbies. Taj is the closest to what I had while over in India. I'll have to try Maharani if they serve Southern Indian Food. I have yet to find a place that does that cuisine justice outside of the Devon Ave. in Chicago.

Dosa's are really good too - but I have to agree with Eric on the batter I've encountered here in Madison not being fermented long enough. Real dosa batter needs to sit for about 48 hours. I've killed many a blender making that stuff.

As for the beef comment - that is usually found in Northern Punjab cooking. I encountered meat dishes more in the north and Bombay.

Glad you really liked it!!! As a vegetarian that hasn't been to India and enjoys buffets, I would say all the Indian Restaurants I have EATEN at ARE good. The Taj sounds wonderful, but their vegetarian selection was to limited to make it worthwhile. Taste of India has good food, but limited selection so won't be back. I would say west Maharaja is my favorite [haven't been to east side], Maharani is very good, India Darbar has some different things & was quite good, and Swagat [if you get there early] is also quite good. One of my MOST favorite "foods" is the coconut soup you can find at a couple of the locations.

There is a small Chain of restaurants in the Chicago/Rockford area called India House that are Very Good, especially the Schaumburg, IL location which is HUGE, capacity is 1000+. Went to a wedding there once, which I will NEVER forget. :-D

One last comment. For selection, exotic flavor/smells, and superb melding of many different flavors together, you can't beat good Indian food. And the price, especially at the buffet, can't be beat. Is the dinner more expensive than normal, yes, but when you consider what it probably costs to make, it is still a good deal. Service is also normally well above average at these type of restaurants, too.

I have only eaten at the Maharaja on the East side but all of my experiences have been very good. The lunch buffet for $9 or $10 is in my opinion, one of the better lunch values available anywhere. There is a large variety of things to try, all served in small pans so that they are being refreshed consistently. Everything was hot, and you got fresh naan dropped off at the table.

Dinners there have been good also. The service has always been friendly and on point.

I'm no Indian expert but I have found almost everything to be well seasoned and flavorful when I eat there.

I see a review here stating this Indian restaurant serves beef and have seen other statements elsewhere chastising the restaurant for serving beef.

I was just there today - I looked closely - I saw no beef. Perhaps the reviewer here is referring to the goat meat dish.

I was just there today - the food is great.

I didn't see any beef. I looked for it 'cause I've seen this commented about elsewhere.

Look at the official website for yourself. It's there.

They served beef curry on their buffet when I went a few weeks ago.

I have to admit that I tried beef curry for the first time the other day and didn't like it. It's just better suited for lamb or chicken. Plus it's creepy to eat your god. Or empowering.

They do serve beef (though not always, menu/buffet varies).

The confusion about beef is that many (most) Indian restaurants are owned by Hindus, who would not allow beef on the menu. The Maharaja is owned by Christian Indians (only 2% of population of India), so they do have beef on the menu as well.

There are a fair number of Muslim Indians, too, and I would assume they're OK with beef (just no pork) - but I agree that lamb and chicken seem to work better in curries than beef does.

I like Maharaja these days a lot. Yes like most Indian restaurants in Madison, they are primarily north Indian food. Growing up in India with one parent from the south and the other the north. I am a fan of both types of cuisine. When I am moved to Madison I thought mediocre, recently their quality has gone up significantly. Furthermore what I enjoy is that although extremely limited their south Indian food is quite good too. But what is my favorite meal had to mango chicken and mango lassi. Yumm! I am definitely a new fan of maharaja!

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