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Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

For Fine Indian Fare, Visit Maharaja

In addition to popular buffet, menu holds many rewards

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One of the most popular weekday lunch spots on Milwaukee's East Side is Maharaja. Its dining rooms are nearly always full for the daily buffet. While the vegetarian-friendly buffet offers a good spread, ordering off the menu is an even better way to experience an Indian restaurant. Foods that are baked in a tandoor oven are at their best when fresh. And Maharaja has an extensive dinner menu that includes a focus on India's south.

Take some time to peruse the menu. All of the Indian mainstays are here, including a fine ginger naan, rice biryanis, chicken tikka and meat vindaloos. Complimentary papadams, the ultra-thin wafers of gram flour and spices, soon arrive at your table. There are also three chutneys—tamarind, onion and mint.

Begin with the plump samosa ($4.50), turnovers filled with spiced potatoes and peas. Another fine option is the vegetable pakora ($3.95), deep-fried with a chickpea batter.

Shrimp excel as tandoori shrimp ($17.95), a sizzling iron plate of jumbo shrimp in a gentle marinade of ginger and garlic. This is a very accessible dish for novices of spicy Indian fare.

Vindaloos should be among the spiciest of Indian dishes. Where many local restaurants miss the mark, Maharaja does it right. The lamb vindaloo ($13.95) features boneless pieces of meat and potato in a sauce that is very hot. It is possible to order a milder version, but the heat is at the heart of a true vindaloo. A side of basmati rice is included in the price.

Vegetarians have no shortage of entrees to choose from, with 20 options listed in the main menu. The "South Indian" section of the menu is even more rewarding. Try rasam ($3.50), a vibrant spiced broth that is a revelation in flavor. A tomato soup ($3.50) proves nearly as good. Entrees include items like idli, vada, dosa and uthappams. Idli, patties of steamed rice and lentil, often appear on the lunch buffet with a vegetable sambar; vada are lentil doughnuts with a texture reminiscent of cracked wheat; dosa are rice crepes; and uthappams, a bit thicker, are made with lentils and rice flour. These come with a variety of toppings, including vegetable, chicken and fish. Prices range from $5.95-$10.95.

One of the meat entrees is lamb Madras ($14), an entree that is milder than the vindaloo and prepared with some coconut. Fish moly ($13.95), featuring very tasty pieces of spiced fish, also includes a hint of coconut.

With Maharaja's solid kitchen, diners can expect a pleasant experience every time. Maharaja remains one of my top picks for fine Indian fare.

Maharaja

1550 N. Farwell Ave.

(414) 276-2250

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