In a word: A brush with Nirvana.
The specs: #0363
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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).
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.
Rachel 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.
The 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
The 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.