Sep 9, 2007

Review: Mumtaz Mahal – Shatti Al Qurum

Mumtaz Mahal is most probably the finest Indian restaurant in town, it is located on the hill behind the Qurum Natural Park and has been in service since the 80s. It is loved madly by the Oman Today magazine as they gave it the award for the best Indian restaurant four times in the five years they’ve been doing their awards.

A review about Mumtaz Mahal is not complete without talking about the location of the restaurant and the view, especially at night when all the blinders that cover the glass walls are lifted to show the view of the road lights and the movement of the cars from above to make a charming sight of the busy life of modern Muscat.

Mumtaz is very spacious with loads and loads of seats, there are also a couple of tables outside the main hall that people sit at when the weather is good. A live band is supposed to perform in the main hall of the restaurant on some days, but I’ve been to the restaurant twice, once on a weekend and another on a week day, and I did not see this band.

The place can easily be fully occupied on any day of the week, when we got there at 7 .30pm yesterday there was barely anybody at the restaurant, but by the time we left around 9.30pm the place was full. It is recommended to book a table in advance instead of showing up expecting to be seated right away. The crowd at Mumtaz seemed to be older than those at the places we previously reviewed with a lot of expatriate families dinning in.

The staff of Mumtaz were very friendly and talkative, at the two times I’ve been to it they helped us with the menu, chatted about India (as if we’ve never had Indian food before?) and even talked about random stuff like cameras and photography. They food did not take a lot of time to get to our table, they literally put the food on our plates and helped us share the starters, we were very impressed.

The menu of Mumtaz is pretty extensive, in addition to their starters they also serve soups, dry tandoor grilled dishes and curry. There are vegetarian stuff in all sections of the menu and a lot of fish and lobster main courses as well. Spicy dishes are labeled with a small drawing of a chili to warn those who cannot handle spicy food.

For the starters we had the three non-vegeterian items they had on their menu, namely Machli Masaledar, these are deep friend fish fingers cooked with spices (the one at the bottom of the place in the image above), Chennai Murg, these are spicy deep friend chicken fillets (on the right side of the plate in the image above) and Murg Methi Kebab, some tandoor flavoured chicken kebabs cooked with some sort of leaves. I liked the chicken fingers more than anything else, the way they were cooked and the way they tasted made it irresistible. The fish fingers came second and the kebabs came third. They all had a hint of spiciness which I did not think was overly hot.

For the main course we had three different chicken dishes, Murg Angaarey – extra spicy tender chicken pieces cooked with garlic, Balti Murg – chicken cooked in traditional North Indian sauce, Chennai Murg Masala – a spicy dish of dry chicken cubes with coconut, curry leaves and black pepper. We also had a bowl of Ghosht Shahi Khorma -a meat dish cooked in gravy sauce with dry fruits and nuts. We ate those with chicken biryani rice and some garlic nan bread.

The food we had was very good, a couple of dishes we had were extra spicy and I would not recommend them for the weak-hearted. For a first timer I would recommend Balti Murg with plain rice or chicken biryani rice – you can’t go wrong with the basics!

We checked their dessert menu, they had many variations of Indian sweets with cheese, which we did not try and had instead their ‘home-made’ ice creams, it tasted very *unique* and had some saffron in it.

Mumtaz is obviously more expensive than the majority of Indian restaurants in town, the starters cost about RO 1.5 to RO 2 each, while vegeterian, chicken, and meat main courses cost RO 2.5 to RO 4, and sea food dishes cost RO 5 to RO 8.

Mumtaz is also a licensed restaurant, we were probably the only table that did not order any alcohol, you see bottles of wine coming and going all the time. A guy on a table next to us ordered some sort of pinched coffee which was made live right next to him.

We thought that the experience at Mumtaz was amazing, we had a great time, the food was delicious and the service was very good.