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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, March 16, 2000

Explore joy of
India at Maharani

PEOPLE who read this column often ask when I write my reviews, as in "Do you go straight to your office and start writing?"

I've always thought it a strange question, as in, does the process really matter?

Being a typical procrastinating writer, I usually start minutes before deadline, finishing a half-hour later. But in the case of Maharani, it became clear that allowing thoughts of masalas, raita, dal and biryanis to stew and simmer, also left me with a cooling period. Ecstatic at first, I realized my initial enchantment stemmed from the joy of having another Indian restaurant in town. Deprivation will do that.

The restaurant has only been open a week, and I try to give newbies a time break, but it turns out the Rahman brothers who run the restaurant didn't need a grace period. Service is friendly and they've got the recipes down pat. It helps that the recipes that have been in their family for generations.

Diners should prepare for an explosion of flavors as cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, fenugreek and more alight on taste buds from every direction.



Bullet Address: 2509 S. King St. near Down to Earth (park behind eatery)
Bullet Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Bullet Prices: About $20 for two; BYOB
Bullet Call: 951-7447

I was in heaven from the moment the Pakoras ($2.50) arrived. These were five pieces of potato-and-chickpea fritters accented with cilantro, cumin and other spices.

Fish kebabs ($3 for five pieces) are shaped like mini crabcakes, made with tuna, chopped onions, herbs and aromatic spices.

Entrees run $6.50 to $9.95, but the best deal of all is the Royal Thali, the mixed plate that gives you a choice of any two vegetable, beef or chicken dishes, plus an appetizer, rice and pita bread, all for $9.95.

Do not miss the yogurt-and-herb marinated Tandoori Chicken ($6.95), smooth and tender from slow roasting. After you've ordered this a couple times, try the Chicken Makhni, in which the Tandoori Chicken gets a flavor boost, stir-fried with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and spices.

Beef Masala ($7.95) also is slow cooked in a rich, spicy sauce of onions, ginger, garlic, tomato and spices.

You don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate Vegetable Masala ($6.95) or Aloo Dal ($6.50), cubed potatoes and lentils cooked in a light creamy sauce of coconut milk and herbs.

Rice, except on the Royal Thali plate, is served a la carte. Delicate jasmine rice is $1.50. Rice Pulau ($2.50) is jasmine rice cooked with organic ghee (clarified butter), saffron and peas. The saffron is negligible.

For dessert, try the Halva ($2), a gelatinous cube made with cream of wheat and ghee, flavored with sugar, cinnamon and other spices.

I simply breathed this food in, with only the stray cardamom pod providing a moment of pause. It was only later that it occurred to me that the flavors are quite similar from dish to dish, and it is chintzy to make people pay for side dishes such as the yogurt-cumber sauce Raita ($1.50), Mango Chutney ($1.50) and the crispy lentil wafers Papadums ($1). These should be offered like bread at Western eateries or tortilla chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant.

But these are minor points. Prices are fair for what you get. As more people discover this little gem, the brothers will wish they'd found a bigger space.

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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