Thursday, September 18, 2014

King Mahal Restaurant


King Mahal has been around for twenty years and the restaurant was formerly located by UBC. Then a few years ago, the restaurant moved to North Burnaby and their $9.99 all you can eat lunch buffet is very popular. Also like many Indian restaurants, King Mahal is a family operated business and the father as well as son runs the front of the house.

Walking in, we noticed King Mahal is a very clean restaurant and perhaps even the cleanest Indian restaurant I have been to (the table glass tops are squeaky clean and shinny too!). The interior also looks traditional and there are Indian tapestries along the walls. Since we were the first to arrive, we had the option of choosing any seat and ours had glasses with red cloth napkins.

After seating, we ordered our drinks and of course I went for the hot water. As the owner was pouring hot water in the glass, I was thinking oh my god… what if it breaks? I am too used to restaurants serving hot water in a mug that I actually felt awkward having hot water in a glass! However, the restaurant uses quality glasses and the glass did not break. In addition, he even brought over a kettle! This is a dream come true because I honestly drink a lot of water, it is really ridiculous.

COMPLIMENTARY CHIPS.
We were presented with some snacks after ordering and they look like pita chips. The chips taste fresh, crispy, crunchy and not greasy. As for the accompaniment, the tamarind chutney tastes slightly sweet and neither too thick nor watery. When we were munching away, the owner came by to ask if we wanted the food with low sodium or regular. I responded however the restaurant usually serves the food and the owner mentioned with low sodium. At this time I was thinking it better not be a gimmick… where low sodium means bland curries LOL. Kind of like how some places have "North Americanized" levels of spiciness, not cool.

ALOO GOBI MASALA, Cauliflower and potatoes cooked in Indian spices ($12.99).
The cauliflower has a slightly sweet natural flavour and is just cooked, neither mushy nor soggy. There is a soft crunch and a fresh natural sweetness along with a refreshing taste from the tomato. In addition, the potatoes taste soft I like how there is more cauliflower than potato. As for the level of spiciness, the cauliflower tastes spicy as requested but the flavour from the tomatoes really stand out and provides a nice zing. The spiciness is the kind when the flavour is addictive and there is a nice buzz in the mouth, not an immediately mouth burning spiciness.

TANDOORI ROTI, Whole wheat flour bread baked in Tandoor ($1.00).
The roti resembles a whole wheat pita, there is a crisp exterior and is puffed on the inside. BF never likes wraps, bread or pitas but he does like this.

SAFFRON RICE, Plain rice flavoured with saffron ($2.50) x 2.
The basmati rice is fluffy and not clumped up. As for the price, it is very reasonable and honestly I hate paying $8.00 for two servings of rice when having curry.

BUTTER CHICKEN, Boneless chicken marinated in ginger, garlic, yogurt, vinegar and spices made with fresh tomato sauce, butter and cream ($14.99).
The butter chicken tastes spicy, more creamy than tomatoey (which I prefer) and there is plenty of bite sizes of chicken. The white meat tastes moist and tender but the highlight is the curry. The flavours from the spices taste great along with the freshness from the tomatoes and the curry tastes very buttery as well as rich.

PRAWN VINDALOO, Prawns cooked with potatoes in a tangy sauce with vinegar and hot spices. A speciality of the chef ($15.99).
Before ordering the prawn vindaloo, we asked if the prawns are small or large and I believe the owner understated. The butterflied prawns are very large and just cooked, where there is a nice bouncy snap. There is also a good amount of prawns and not too many potatoes. As for the curry, the vindaloo tastes the spiciest of all and there is also that signature light sweetness and tang from the vinegar. The vindaoo is rich, tangy, spicy and slightly sweet which makes it a favourite of ours (when done right!).

NAAN, Traditional North Indian Bread ($2.00).
The naan seems only average compared to the rest of the dishes, which is not a bad sacrifice. I would have preferred some blistering but perhaps because King Mahal tries to serve healthier food, they passed on that nice char? I mean, there is a bit… but not really. Furthermore, the naan tastes soft and is easy to chew but lacks that nice elastic "easy to tear" feeling. By no means is the nann stiff though.

ROGAN JOSH LAMB, A speciality of KESH. Chunks of tender lamb cooked in traditional spices including saffron ($14.99).
We decided to order three dishes and if all taste good, add on a lamb curry. The owner's son mentioned the rogan josh is one of the chef's specialities and we decided to order this over a generic lamb curry. BF also threw in he wanted the curry medium spicy instead of spicy… which I was not happy with! Nevertheless, the curry tastes rich, flavourful and full of spices. The plentiful and bite sizes of lamb taste tender and not dry one bit. Compared to the previous requested "spicy" curries earlier, the medium level provides enough spiciness and is not mild but I do prefer spicy more.

MANGO ICE CREAM, Indian style ice cream ($4.00).
I read online that King Mahal serves a unique mango ice cream, which I made sure to order. This is a very light and refreshing dessert! The mango ice cream is made to order and has a rich mango flavour. The ice cream resembles shaved ice but is not icy one bit and the flavours are well blended.

TOTAL: $77.65 + TIP $14.35 = $92.00.

SUGAR COATED FENNEL SEEDS.
Mukwah is always available at Indian restaurants and are supposed to aid digestion as well as freshen the mouth. Most of the time, the snack is self serve and placed by the cashier counter tops. There is usually a spoon for customers to scoop out a portion to place on their hand, but I have seen so many people just use their hands! At King Mahal, the restaurant presents an individual size portion to the table which I find more sanitary. The fennel seeds taste slightly sweet and have a light spice flavour.

All in all, King Mahal is a great find. The restaurant serves rich flavourful curries and the consistency is not even slightly watery. Also, spicy is actually spicy (but not overwhelmingly) and medium spicy means medium spicy. As for the owners, these are definitely people who care. We were presented with heated plates before the food arrived and the owner's son mentioned to be careful. In addition, he even followed up regarding the level of spiciness. No Indian restaurant I have been to has done this and on many occasions the level of spiciness was not okay! I am big on service and King Mahal provided us with fine dining service, honestly. Even when BF wanted to order another drink (which was served in a new glass), I was asked if I wanted more hot water. If there is one person at the table who wants another drink, perhaps someone else will as well and this is often overlooked at many restaurants I have been to (including fine dining).

POSITIVES
- Rich curries
- Spicy means spicy (but not extra spicy)
- Professional, polite and welcoming staff

NEGATIVES
- Naan is average (2.5/5)

LITTLE THINGS
- One of the better Indian cuisine restaurants
- A 5/5 service is never necessary but when it happens, it makes my day. There is not even the smallest thing that the staff could have done which was forgotten

Food: 4/5 (ice cream 5/5)
Service: 5/5

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