Curried Away

Tucked away in a quiet shopping center off of Hulen, Maharaja Indian Restaurant offers dishes with plenty of spice and authenticity.

After stepping through the restaurant’s entrance, the strong smell of curry instantly triggers your taste buds. Maharaja is no frills, but the food keeps customers returning. Saffron- and cinnamon-colored walls are adorned with Indian-inspired décor, and red-and-white checkered cloths cover the tables. Bollywood songs played lightly through the buzz of restaurant chatter.

The lunch crowd was a good mix, and almost everyone ordered the buffet. And for good reason. It abounds with authentic all-you-can-eat options at a low cost.

I decided to order from the menu, but my guest did partake of a few buffet offerings and was willing to share. Our server was friendly without being overly attentive and was more than willing to explain or suggest dishes.

Before our appetizer arrived, we tried the Raita accompanied by cucumber and bell pepper. It lacked the creamy yogurt consistency it’s known for, and the watered-down texture led me to believe that the yogurt had not been thoroughly strained.

The Tandoori Appetizer Platter ($8.95) arrived to the table sizzling with onions, bell peppers, chicken drumsticks and Seekh Kebab ground lamb blended with spices and herbs. While the lamb was a little dry, the chicken was tender and beautifully seasoned, and the portion was perfect for two. Our server brought by a spicy mint sauce and a sweet tamarind sauce that were both bright and fresh, along with warm-from-the-tandoor-oven naan bread shimmering with garlic oil.

The Chicken Tikka Masala ($11.50) was by far the star and came in a traditional metal bowl with an ample side of long-grained white rice. Before ordering, the server asked the level of spice that I desired. When I said “really spicy,” her pause and raise of the eyebrow made me rethink my answer. I ordered it mild, and it was the perfect level of spice. The roasted chicken was moist and tender, and the creamy tomato curry sauce that the chicken swam in was heavenly. In fact, when the chicken was gone, my lunch guest and I fought over sopping up the remaining sauce with the naan.

We sampled a few items from the buffet including the Veggie Kofta, which was moist and earthy. The Chana Masala was intensely spiced, and the chickpeas had the perfect texture. We appreciated Maharaja’s interpretation of the Saag Paneer, which typically drowns the spinach in creamy mixture. Our version was excellent, and the spinach kept its integrity.

If you didn’t save room for dessert, don’t worry. The traditional Gulab Jamun ($3.99) dessert consisted of spongy, milky pastry balls that were soggy yet tough on the outside with an unsavory flavor.
Overall, it’s understandable why this restaurant has been a staple in Fort Worth’s international culinary scene. Next time you are heading out for another hamburger or Tex-Mex lunch, think about broadening your horizons at Maharaja.