I have never been to India. The only “authentic” Indian food I have tasted has been at one of the ever-growing number of cheap restaurants in Tel Aviv offering “genuine” Indian cuisine. The atmosphere and the food are supposed to remind us all of those carefree months we spent trekking through Delhi and partying in Goa. The food at some of these places is ok. At others, it is better. However, none of them really fair up to the quality of the food served at Maharani.
Located on the unlikely (and very busy) corner of Allenby and King George, across from Shuk Ha-Carmel (Carmel Market), Maharani is not exactly your typical restaurant. The decor is simple. With two wooden bars on each side of the small space and a few tables outside on the sidewalk, it is more reminiscent of a falafel stand. But don’t let the looks fool you. Inside you will find one of the tastiest meals around.
This is a family-run business offering simple, unpretentious home-cooking. The owner, Motti, is also the chef. He learned to cook traditional food from his mother, who immigrated to Israel from India over 40 years ago. She can be found helping out in the restaurant in the early afternoon, as can his older brother. Unlike other simple Indian restaurants in Tel Aviv, Maharani serves meat dishes and is Kosher.
So what about the food? In the traditional Indian cuisine, yoghurt is used to take the edge of some of the more spicy dishes and to soften meat. Since no dairy products are used here, it may seem that Motti and his food are at a disadvantage. However, the Tandoori Chicken is so soft and so succulent, that you would never know the difference. Everything here is fresh and made from scratch – from the marinades, to the sauces and salads; nothing is from a bottle or a can. There are no shortcuts.
There is an attractive business lunch, which offers a main dish with rice, salad and Roti – the traditional Indian bread. Vegetarians will also feel at home here and can choose from a curry dish, Dahl (lentils) with or without rice, a vegetable Samosa or the well-known Thali – rice, Dahl and cooked vegetable-based dishes, which change daily.
Without resorting to expensive marketing campaigns, professionally decorated interiors, or prime positioning, Maharani has managed to establish a small and loyal following in less than a year. The reason for this lies in its warmth and simplicity. This place has the potential to become a real institution. I may never have been to India, but I know what I like.
Maharani restaurant is closed