While the décor at The Moghul Room may be a bit on the boring side, the food served here is second to none.
The interior of the Indian restaurant at the Mena House Oberoi, in the words of a friend, is “typical of that found in Indian rest houses, but the cuisine’s lovers will surely savor the flavorful, hearty dishes.
The mere mention of the Mena House causes me to enter a sanguine state. There’s a strong nostalgic reference to the past coupled with a commanding vista of the Pyramids.
The Moghul Room was perfect for an intimate tête-à-tête with a friend to catch up before her nuptials. Quiet, with a few expatriate diners, the noise level only rose when a rowdy table of French businessmen came in.
Starting with lassi, a drink made from buttermilk flavored with salt and cumin (LE 15), we perused the extensive menu of soups, various types of bread, kebabs, vegetarian delights, rice and biryani dishes as well as a page of “The Moghul Room Specialties. Deliciously refreshing, lassi can be ordered sweet flavored with either mango or strawberry.
Ordering achaar aur chutney (homemade pickles and chutney for two) with papadums (wafer-thin bread made of Indian pulses), the sweet dips and green salad were a perfect starter. The papadums were light and delicious with all that flavor of pulses, perfect to nibble on as we waited for the main dishes.
Indian cuisine is by no means easy to maneuver. The country’s various regions, peoples and geographical make up creates a cuisine so varied that sampling different dishes is like visiting several nations. Thankfully, the staff at The Moghul Room is knowledgeable about both the cuisine and the menu, helping patrons unfamiliar with curries and vindaloos choose the perfect meal.
Selecting vegetarian biryani, or fried basmati rice cooked with fresh garden veggies (LE 55), to complement our main dishes, I ordered murgh vindaloo (LE 98). The “fiery chicken from the western coast, heavy on coconut and vinegar, as described in the menu, came with a disclaimer that warned: “No mild version of this dish!
Taking heed, I ordered some soft naan bread with garlic to counteract the fieriness of the vindaloo. Indian cuisine incorporates a lot of starch such as potatoes and bread, yoghurt and boiled eggs to help lessen the burn of the spices.
My vegetarian dining partner ordered tandoori subzi, or “marinated tomatoes, onions, mushroom, capsicum and potatoes garnished with pineapple slice (LE 57), which arrived sizzling on the plate. Her silence while eating said it all: satisfaction.
The vegetables biryani matched beautifully with our savory dishes.
My vindaloo should be served with a fire extinguisher – definitely not for the faint of heart. Spicy and truly fiery, it was – in those rare moments that I could control the fire in my mouth – delicious. One can instead opt for lamb rather than chicken when ordering a vindaloo, and I am sure, would be as delicious as any plate ordered so far.
The platters were all pungent with spices, colors and, most importantly, flavor. The waiters stood attentively, ladling out from the serving dishes onto our plates, eager as aunties to feed us more and more.
“You haven’t finished eating have you? asked one waiter.
Portions weren’t large, but fair; perhaps they took into account the fact that spices and chilies makes one feel fuller faster. Or maybe they knew we would want dessert.
Our waiter suggested ordering several desserts to share, portions are small and they go with each other. The malai pista kulfi (typical Indian ice cream, LE 39) had a cheese-like texture, breaking off softly, with a flavor more exotic than banal vanilla. The gulab jamun (fried dumplings made of reduced milk and cottage cheese served in rose flavored sugar syrup, LE 38) were heavily sweet but, paired with the ice cream, were simply divine.
Unable to move for a while, we sipped some ilaichy wali chai (orthodox tea in milk and cardamom), which took some time to be brewed freshly. When it came, the sweetness of milky cardamom caused us to silently reflect on our friendship and the perfect meal, often best when had in tandem.
The Moghul RoomMena House OberoiPyramids Road, GizaTel: (02) 3377 3222