Alvin Thomas heads to a the newly opened Maurya’s and finds that it hits the spot with a range of delicious dishes and friendly, knowledgeable waiters.
One of the joys of being an Indian expatriate in Oman is getting the chance to meet fellow expats who have been in this country long enough to tell a story, spend some time chatting with them – have a mini-reunion of sorts – and maybe make a new friend or contact by the end of the conversation. Call me crazy, but in many ways that’s what I would call time well spent.
But of late, work has taken centre stage, and the only time I meet people are during my Coffee With Y interviews. However, I decided that it was time to change that. So I headed to an Indian restaurant in the hope of meeting some friendly faces.
The restaurant, Maurya’s, only opened a week ago so I presumed that I would be in for a half-baked menu but luckily that was not to be. Surprisingly, when I walked into the restaurant at 9.30pm, it was packed with people – mostly Omanis – whom I presumed were looking for an authentic Indian meal.
The name “Maurya” originally dates to 322BC. Today, however, the name is used as a status symbol, mostly by those who reside in north India.
Maurya’s restaurant has a pleasant vibe: the lighting has a gentle, golden hue to it, and while it’s quite dim inside, it is still an attractive dining space. The seats are what you would normally find in a cosy American restaurants and the interior is a mix of modern and traditional design. For instance, there are small stained glass chandeliers as well as simple circular ones lighting up the area.
As with most Indian restaurants, there’s music in the background but here, the tunes are all from classic Bollywood movies – and that certainly adds to the appeal of the place. Overall, it is very different from any other Indian restaurant I have ever been in.
The waiters – who seemed to be plenty in number – were polite and attentive. My waiter was professional and explained all the dishes perfectly, even though the menu was still only a few days old.
He suggested that I have the prawn vepudu (“vepudu” means “fry”) for my starter. I was a tad circumspect about the “chillie” logo on the dish but decided to start with it anyway. I also ordered a mango mausam ka ras (seasonal nectars) to wash down the spices, as well as kadai murgh masala, paneer kulcha (Indian bread stuffed with cottage cheese) and a non-vegetarian platter to go with it.
By now, all the commotion in the restaurant had died down, and my waiter approached me to make some small talk. I learned that the West Bengal native had just landed in Muscat two weeks ago and was still only settling into his job.
Before I could get to know more, he ran inside the kitchen to grab my starters.
First up was a complimentary papad (a thin crispy delicacy) along with a side of mint chutney, and then my prawn vepudu.
The papad and chutney were really great together, although a tad too spicy for me. But I put that down to my intolerance towards spices and not on the chef.
The prawns were scrumptious. Again, they were spicy (as stated in the menu) but they didn’t ring my taste buds that much. Apart from that, the prawns also tasted very fresh, and not like they had been pre-prepared or frozen. They were in a tomato-based sauce that also featured cashews, onions and chilli, which gave it a very ambrosial flavour.
Next to arrive was my mango mausam ka ras, kulcha and kadai murgh masala. With its generous stuffing of panner, it was the kulcha that stole the show. It was also very well-prepared, as the top layer had just the right amount of ghee-doused crusting on it. This was also just enough to expose the paneer within the kulcha.
This, alongside the succulent kadai murg masala, made for a very appetising serving. The mango juice, however, was a tad too acerbic for my taste although that could be because it isn’t the mango season here yet.
My non-veg platter was the next to arrive, and the moment I laid my eyes on it, I knew I couldn’t finish it. So, I decided to have a few servings of the chicken and the prawn tikka, and leave the rest for another day.
The tikkas were tantalising to say the least. Even the aroma from the chicken was delectable.
Following this, I was approached by the general manager of the hotel (not knowing that I was from Y), who enquired if I was happy with the dishes, and if I wanted anything else. I quickly ordered a couple of biriyanis for my parents, and settled into my seat, for the grand finale – the kulfi pudding.
The kulfi, as the manager pointed out, had been bought from a shop, as they have yet to procure their own nitrogen-powered kulfi machine. The pudding was still excellent.
Following that, I quickly got into a conversation with the general manager and learned that he had been a resident of Tamil Nadu some time ago, and that we had probably been neighbours at some point during my college days. At the end of the evening I had nothing but praise for the restaurant and its friendly staff. In all, it was a good end to an otherwise hectic day. I will definitely be visiting Maurya’s again.
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Good food, friendly service in an attractive setting.