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Maharani

In a word: A brush with Nirvana.

The specs: #0363
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Magazine, Isthmus, Badger Herald, Yelp, State Street Beat, WiSJ, Caveat Lector, the Culinary Adventures of Jahboh and Tossy, QSC, QSC again, TDPF; menu at menupix; Maharani Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Latest Maharani news and reviews

Aine ate the palak paneer.
JM ate the mushroom lamb.
Nichole ate the fish goa curry, hot.
Pete ate the butter chicken, mild.
Peter ate the chicken madras.
Rachel ate the butter chicken, medium hot.
We split a bread assortment (roti, stuffed naan, and chapati), the kabuli naan, vegetable and chicken pakora, and samosas.
The bill was $104, or $17.33/person, plus tip.
Aine, JM, Nichole, Pete, and Rachel gave Maharani an A; Peter gave Maharani an A+++ (see our grading rubric).

Poppadum and relishesMaharani was off to the right foot from the moment they gave us change for the meters - and insisted we keep our dollar. YMMV but we thought this was a very hospitable start to the evening.

We were seated at the largest round table in the recently-updated, tidy dining room and were almost immediately brought a plate of poppadum and a relish tray. These poppadum included caraway seeds. The onion relish here was gently hot, while the cilantro relish was more mint than cilantro. The tamarind sauce was thicker than average and very sweet.

SamosasRachel was enraptured by the beautiful samosas, which were light and crispy, with blessedly identifiable ingredients rather than an anonymous puree of filling. The initial bite carried a bouquet of savory, Thanksgiving-invoking spices. Peter, too, called them the best he's ever had.

Vegetable pakoraThe vegetable pakora were tasty little bundles of peas, carrots and more in a chickpea batter that had the consistency of gently cooked eggs. Likewise, the chicken pakora were delicious little nuggets and disappeared in a flash. These three appetizers made it clear that their fry medium was well-maintained. The lettuce, carrot and onion garnish on each plate, while not very nutritional, was always fresh and pretty.

Kabuli naanWe also sprang for an assortment of breads, each about 10 inches in diameter and served piping hot and cut in quarters. We got a bread basket of chapati (light and airy), roti (slightly more substantial, with a nutty wheat flavor), and naan (stuffed with red onions and potatoes, not the table's favorite, but worth packing home). The kabuli naan was also a hit - lightly sweetened with coconut, raisins, seeds and herbs, each bite packed a variety of flavors.

Breads, fish goa curry, palak paneer

Onto the entrees. They came served in the customary brass dishes with pea-studded rice, and we ate more or less family-style once again.

Nichole did that annoying thing where she ordered her fish goa curry hotter than anyone else could stand, so she got to eat most of hers herself. The heat in this mustard-yellow dish built stealthily, however, not really taking full effect until one's second or third bite of flaky, well-cooked white fish.

Chicken madras

The madras chicken was super-tender; likewise the butter chicken, which was served up in a user-friendly way with a herb garnish on the hotter of the two versions. The red sauce was lightly sweet and very tomatoey. The difference between the mild and medium butter chicken was about right, in our estimation, for what the average diner would expect.

The palak paneer, Aine's favorite dish, had a fine flavor. The paneer had a squeak to them, just like a Wisconsin cheddar cheese curd, that was surprising; we wondered if this was due to a shorter pressing time than average, and the jury was out on whether a squeak was desirable, but it definitely indicated freshness.

Mushroom lambThe lamb mushroom was likewise right on the money.  Tender in that special way that only well-cooked lamb can be, the mushroom prep added some hints of occasional woodiness which accentuated the lamb's delicate flavor.

Maharani just did everything we wanted in the right proportions (although as usual, Nichole brought some home). We're not prepared to adjudge it the best Indian food EVAR, because we lack the qualifications to do so, but it would be hard for us to imagine a nicer way for six people to enjoy a meal, especially one using the culinary tools of the Indian subcontinent.

Comments

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I will concur that Maharani, and its west-side counterpart Swagat, are probably the most reliable of the Indian restaurants in town. They're the ones all my Indian co-workers go to, anyway.

This is my Mom's favorite Indian Restaurant, at least in Wisconsin. The India House restaurants in the Chicago area are also pretty good. As a buffet, rather than dinner lover, I would say Maharani has more choices, but Swagat has some things that are better, like the battered fresh spinach appetizer [never had that before anywhere] and the custard/flan desert. That being said for dinner, there may not be much difference between the two, though I do believe they keep some of the menu items different.

I love this place. I really like the lunch buffet, not just because I can stuff my face, but also because I can try so many different dishes (goat!). The mango ice cream is sooooo good.

My mouth is watering--you guys are the most excellent writers! (And down-to-earth food reviewers too.)

If you loved dinner, you should for sure try the lunch buffet. It's an unbelievable deal, and so incredibly tasty. It's hands down my favorite lunch in Madison.

Interesting. I've been there only once, and I won't return. I was virtually ignored by my waiter, who seemed pretty put out when I asked for his advice when choosing between dishes, and never once came back once my food was served. I should also point out that is was NOT a busy time. I also ordered my food hot...and I'm pretty sure when I do that it means it should have SOME spice to it, rather than none at all. The pakoras I orderd had more taste than my Aloo Chole! For my Indian food, I prefer Majaraja or the Taj.

It is both a blessing and a curse that I live a few blocks from Maharani! I looove it! And there are a few bad people on the wait staff, but there are also a few that my husband and I absolutely adore. :)

I second Erin. The service was terrible, and the food was fine, but not nearly as good as Maharaja.

There seems to be little middle-ground in indian restaurant service - they either ignore you or are attentive to the point of obsequiousness. I don't know why that is.

I have had the problem at many indian and thai places that, when ordering "spicy" they don't give me actual spicy until I've sort of established myself as a regular and can show that I can eat spicy without getting angry at the staff. That only seems to be a problem in the Midwest.

Totally, this was my experience at Taste of India (which, after the spicy thing got sorted out, is definitely my fave Indian place in Madison).

Two weekends ago a friend and I went to Maharini for the lunch buffet. The food was good, but I think I prefer Maharaja.

However the service that day was very good, I don't think I took more than three sips out of my water or tea glass before they were looking to refil it.

Maharani now features this review both on the door and inside the restaurant.

I have usually received great service there. The only exception was the very first day of operation. They didn't expect many people since it was a state holiday and horrible weather. Instead, they had a line going out the door for lunch.

I order the Navarattan Korma most of the time. I've had almost every vegetarian item. I also like the Malai Kofta and the eggplant dish. I eat here almost once a week.

We've been getting Maharani* a lot lately; Indian has replaced Chinese for Kristine's Asian continent takeout of choice.

Everything's been pretty solid. Chicken moghlai is really tasty, as is the beef mango (a dish not offered at Maharaja). The samosas are gorgeous, crispy but not crunchy, covered in salty goodness but not punishing to a chapped Wisconsin lip.

Sizes are good for two respectable plates for dinner, and two equally respectable servings of leftovers.

*Now I understand the confusion over the spelling of the name. There's ONE poster inside the lobby area that spells the name "Maharini." Everywhere else, the name is "Maharani."

Did you notice that they had the Eating A to Z review posted?

I love their samosas, too. If you eat in the restaurant, you get to see a parade of dogs past the window. You may even get a sighting of the elusive Betty the Pug.

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