RESTAURANT REVIEW :Maharaja Palace | Sunday Observer


Indian cuisine has long dominated the gourmet’s taste buds in Colombo. Within this vast spectrum of succulent taste the region of North India is famed for the legendary cuisine of the Mughlai empire - which reached its zenith with the reign of Genghis Khan.

We were made aware of a similar venue in Colombo, and thus ventured to Maharaja Palace. This restaurant is located at Reid Avenue, adjacent to Royal College, Colombo 7. The bright lights had truly transformed the exterior of this purpose built mansion into a Hindustani royal abode. The massive wooden doors impressed with brass set the tone for a royal treat. The smart doorman, clad in white with a turban further accentuated this appeal of Indian nobility. The lighting made a perfect contrast to the luxury furniture. After being seated a waiter brings us a bright red leather bound menu. The extensive menu is a testament to the culinary skill of resident head Chef Abubakar, known to repeat guests as Chef Abu. He has been here since 2012. Having ordered a mango lassi I browsed through the menu.

Maharaja Palace has a variety of kebabs - mutton shaami kebab, chicken hazarvi kebab, tandoori chicken wings. We chose the chicken kalimiri tikka, which was served on a white plate. The tenderness of the meat was superbly sustained although the outside was coated with the beautiful scent of charcoal and spices. Kebabs are a vital part of Muglahi cuisine as they also promote fellowship as people sat and ate around the smoking grill.

Another element in North Indian food is paneer - cottage cheese. At this restaurant this is made in-house and tastes fresh. Chef has also kept one full page of vegetarian kebabs and dishes so that vegetarians don’t feel left out at the table. This was followed by a basket of butter and chili naan. The chili naan was a first for me - unleashing a zest of green chili. The side dish for this was a prawn vindaloo. This dish was exploding with flavour, but the dark brown colour of the sauce did mildly suppress the visual of the submerged prawns. During this time our focus shifted to the solitary flute player - who played melodious serenades. The smooth music gently penetrated the night air.

Up next was the main course and Chef recommended that we try his pot biriyani. For decades we Sri Lankans have feasted on the large biriyani savan (silver platter). The concept of pot biriyani is rapidly dominating our culinary choices. The dish came in a white ceramic ramican - mutton dum biriyani.

As the lid was opened the aroma of spices hits you in the face. This is probably the best pot biriyani we have had thus far. The pieces of mutton are juicy and tender. The side dish a vegetable Jhalfraezi, made a nice contrast yielding a rich sour tomato flavour. This dish is quite a contrast to the vegetable sambar - so common in South Indian cuisine, which has a heritage of its own. After this indulgence dessert is a temptation, and we ordered a kulfi. The ice cream had a delightful blend of almonds and creaminess. Maharaja Palace has a good menu with decent pricing. The large car park is certainly a bonus.

Chef Abubakar has done a great task in keeping alive the cuisine of the muglahi royal court