Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Sir and I are huge fans of Indian cuisine. I mean massive. We have toured entire cities in search of the ultimate curry (a dish which, as it turns out, originated in ancient Iraq).
We are also big fans of The Meridien Village in Dubai so it was always a disappointment to us that they didn’t have an Indian restaurant. I ‘asked the universe’ and the universe took about 6 years to answer. The result of my wishing and hoping (and not of course the result of commercial demand) is MAHEC. It is spelt in CAPITALS because MAHEC is actually an acronym for Modern Authentic Hindustani Evolved Cuisine which is more of a mouthful than a spoonful of vindaloo.
They claim to be a ‘fusion’ Indian restaurant. ‘Fusion’ is a word that repeats on me like this morning’s smoked mackerel. Historically Indian cuisine is of course a fusion of Middle Eastern, Turkish and Persian flavours but that is not what they are getting at here. They are trying to meld together east and west in a marriage that would have traditional Indian parents wailing in despair.
The décor is not what I was expecting at all. It sidesteps the usual reds, browns, golds and brocade in favour of simplicity and clean lines. So that covers the ‘Modern’. The staff are attentive and welcoming with plenty of bowing and scraping going on.
We are offered the wine list, which is exhaustive. The waiter points helpfully to their wine display cabinets which line two walls and have a little library-style slidey ladder to reach the top shelves – which I presume is where they keep their AED 41,500 1990 Chateau Margaux Premiere Cru. We resist the temptation to order this and settle instead for the more traditional accompaniment of Kingfisher Beer.
Moments later our chilled beers arrive together with a rather unexpected surprise. The waiter presents us with an elegant morsel each which he declares is the ‘amuse bouche’. This I do find rather amusing. It turns out to be a delectable, if regrettably small, chickpea pakora with a tiny dollop of mint sauce.
We are handed our menus and I have to admit that some of the familiar names throw up unexpected twists. The crispy soft shell crabs are served with green apple and the tandoori lamb sheesh kebab has rosemary in it. We decide to skip starters. Looking at the main courses perplexes us some more. I order the intriguing ‘creamy porcini with lamb masala’ which also promises an enoki salad. Sir, being less adventurous than me, orders the more traditional sounding ‘chicken tikka masala’. We also order the dal makhani – a firm favourite – and some saffron rice, raita and tandoori naan.
So far we have not been that daring with our choices, but I am interested to see how the porcini stands up to a round in the pan with lamb masala. I am not disappointed. Imagine if a Bollywood actor, all sultry and brooding, had a scandalous affair with a busty Italian supermodel and their resulting love-child was exotic and stunning. No one thinks the affair would work, but somehow it does. The flavours do things to each other in my mouth that flavours in love do. The earthy mushrooms temper the spice in the masala. The enoki is superfluous in my opinion.
The CTM is a slight disappointment as the heat is overpowering, leaving the other flavours struggling to emerge. The dal makhani is ‘Authentic’. It is creamy and unctuous and so that covers that. The usual suspects of rice, raita and naan do not disappoint. We move onto desserts. Here again the pairings are sinful.
The ‘chocolebi’ for example is a cardamom chocolate mousse with praline jalebis. Might this be the ‘Evolved’ section? We both decide on the ‘methi samosa’ a carrot halwa filled pastry with a sidekick of fig and ginger ice-cream. It was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the ice-cream. My only criticism would be that although crisp and not greasy I found the samosa pastry too heavy for the delicate gazar halwa.
The service was spot-on for the whole evening and the staff were attentive and anticipating. The atmosphere was unfussy and easy. The average cost for a starter is 40 to 50 dirhams with mains coming in at around the 100 mark, which I found a bit steep. Deserts are reasonable at around 30-40 dirhams.
I will be going back; if only to see if the wailing parents will win and the ‘Hindustani’ ingredients will find more traditional partners.