Indian Food, Maharaja Style

Saturday night was sort of epic– I truly cannot remember the last time I was out until midnight and in bed at one.  I know that sounds a tad lame, but for a girl who is in bed before nine on most nights, that’s practically a whole work day’s worth of awake time I normally don’t have!  It all began with a speedy car ride with my husband into Cambridge, Massachusetts in order to meet up with some of his former roommates before their official tenth year college reunion. . .

The reunion soiree went from 7 PM until 1 AM, so my husband planned a dinner first for all his college roomies who could attend at The Maharaja, a seemingly new Indian restaurant in Cambridge occupying the former location of The Bombay Club.  The Maharaja was one of the few restaurants in Cambridge that had a table for eight available at 7 PM on this busy reunion night.  Of course, since it had wide-open availability according to Opentable, we were a  bit worried that perhaps the food wouldn’t be that great, but due to the scarcity of other choices, we decided to go with it anyway.  Let’s just say I am extremely glad we ended up there– the food was fantastic, as was the decor, service and vibe in general.

IMG_4802 The Maharaja  Sign

The Maharaja is located upstairs, so it has great open window views of Cambridge Square– we felt like we were right in the heart of all the crazy Harvard graduation/reunion action.   When our party of five adults and one adorable baby arrived, we were seated immediately.  It wasn’t crowded at all– in fact we were on of the few parties there!

IMG_4803 The Maharaja Menu

I was struck by how elaborately the restaurant was decorated– from wall art to ornate chairs down to even the decorative plates, The Maharaja was gorgeous, with lovely Indian-inspired details everywhere. 

IMG_4804 The Maharaja Plate

We had numerous servers, waiters and other staff tending to us throughout the night, which was really nice.  They were helpful and attentive without being overbearing or intrusive, and because of that, we had a very pleasant and enjoyable dining experience.  The food was obviously a large part of our positive impressions of The Maharaja– literally everyone at the table was beyond pleased with their meals!

Complimentary pappadum (lentil and rice wafers) and assorted chutneys were brought out to us upon being seated. 

IMG_4805 The Maharaja Pappudum

IMG_4807 The Maharaja Chutneys

They did not disappoint, evidenced by the fact I quickly gobbled one up decked out with zippy tamarind sauce and onion chutney.

IMG_4808 The Maharaja Pappadum My Plate

We ordered all of our dishes, including appetizers, to come out at once for the sake of saving some time.  For my appetizer, I ordered their vegetable pakoras, aka chickpea flour battered spicy vegetable fritters.

The pakoras was awesome, especially because some of the fritters were mixed veggie clumps of goodness, while some were just a single veggie, like a potato slice or cauliflower floret battered and fried to perfection.  I ate at least four dipped in tamarind sauce and a hot chili sauce that accompanied the pakoras– the rest were shared with the group.

IMG_4811 The Maharaja Pakoras

For dinner, I had a bunch of options that were vegan and gluten-free, including favorites like chana masala (curried chickpeas), a spicy lentil dish, and baingan bharta (spicy eggplant).  I decided to go with something I don’t often see on Indian menus– tofu and vegetable jalfrezi, which consisted of chunks of veggies like mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower cooked in a multitude of Indian spices along with firm tofu.  When asked the level of spice I wanted in the dish (mild, medium or hot), I went with hot, hoping it would be super spicy.

IMG_4809 The Maharaja Tofu veggie jalfrezi

The tofu and vegetable jalfrezi was delicious– the veggies were perfectly tender but retained a nice bite.  The spicy sauce was hot, but totally manageable and could have even been hotter, and it perfectly coated all of the tofu and veggies so that every bite was bursting with flavor.   The portion size of the meal was quite generous as well.

I paired the dish with some white basmati rice– I wish they had brown rice as an option but I was out of luck there.

IMG_4810 The Maharaja Rice

My plate was so tasty and satisfying that I honestly wish it would magically appear in front of me right now!

IMG_4812 The Maharaja My Plate

The worst part about this meal was the fact I couldn’t pack up my leftovers to take home since we were going to an event afterwards.  We ended up sending the leftovers home with one of the hubby’s friends who wasn’t going to the reunion later.  Lucky, lucky him for being able to enjoy this food again!!

Since we were off to a party, we skipped dessert, but I did glance at the menu, which included traditional favorites like kheer (rice pudding) and rasmalai (sweet milk dumplings).  It also included desserts that were not so typical of an Indian restaurant like almond cake.  None of the desserts were vegan anyway, so I wasn’t too tempted by the sweets.

After dinner, we were walking over to the reunion location at Radcliffe Yard only to pass by what was our favorite Indian restaurant in Cambridge called Cafe of India.  Unfortunately, it was closed/out of business.  It must have been fate then that we ended up at The Maharaja that night, since we were able to discover our new favorite Indian restaurant in Harvard Square.

We got to the reunion around nine, and didn’t leave till midnight.  My husband had a wonderful time catching up with old friends, and I had a great time meeting a bunch of new people.  It’s so funny to think that the people I met knew my husband at a time when I didn’t– I especially loved the stories they told that gave me some insight into how my husband was back in this college days!  He seems to have been pretty much the same as he is now, except maybe slightly nerdier back then– just kidding!!!

We didn’t leave Cambridge immediately after we left the reunion though. . . a pit stop was made for dessert first!  But I will leave that for another time because it was so good, it deserves its own dedicated post!

Hope you had a safe, fun and relaxing Memorial Day weekend– what was the highlight of it?

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