880 Jarry O.
Bus: STM 80, 179, 193, 435
Visit: March 8, 2012
Three years ago, before I started doing what it is that I do, if you’d ask me to go try Indian food, I would probably give you the most dumbfounded look you’ve ever seen. When I think of something to eat, Indian food isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind. It’s not that I have anything against this type of cuisine, it’s just that I grew up with a largely Chinese eating background. So, now that we’re in 2012, I am more than willing to give something different a try.
In preparation for my first Indian restaurant experience, I took to Facebook and Twitter to ask for the public’s opinion on where I should go. I got a variety of responses as to where in Montreal should be my destination. It was when I talked to L.A., my dining companion for the evening, where Mahli came up. After doing my obligatory research online, I was more than pleased with this selection. I even took a chance to peruse the menu online and came up with a dish that I couldn’t leave without trying.
It was a quite rainy evening when I entered the restaurant. Once you get past the front door, you have to be sure to pass the white doors that you can’t see through. Since I wasn’t sure if I was the first one there or not, I was hoping to see inside the restaurant. The windows are blocked by curtains, which covered the bottom half. So, no matter which angle I tried to look in from, I couldn’t see in. Being not dumb enough to stay outside to wait in the rain, I went inside.
Originally, we were supposed to be a bigger group of people. At that particular moment, I wasn’t sure who was going to come or not. As I entered, I did a really good job of confusing the people working there. So, our group of 6 people were whittled down to only the two of us. After asking for a table of 6, we quickly asked and received a smaller table. We were lucky that we asked quickly because the place really filled up as we went along. It’s not a big place, but enough to hold about a dozen small tables that can be pushed together if need be.
This was the silverware we were given. This would be the first time that I ever used anything like this to eat. It’s not my favorite type of plate to eat on, but it would do just fine for the evening. At our table, what we did was choose a dish for the each of us. When the food arrived, we would share everything. That worked rather nicely.
The only issue I would say about the evening would be the waiting time. The order was taken rather promptly. Then, the actual waiting for the food wasn’t long at all. It was at the end of the meal when the waiting or confusion started. Now, I like a post-meal conversation like everyone on the planet, but I don’t have enough material to last me until my March Break is over. What we didn’t know is that the bill didn’t come to your table, but you had to get up to settle your tab. I felt that should’ve been made clear sooner, rather than later. I know of restaurants in Chinatown where the owner would nudge you until you are out the door. The staff at Mahli seemed to be more than happy to let us linger for a bit.
This is the normal rice that was ordered to compliment the Butter Chicken dish that you’ll see in the next photo. What I learned was that some of the dishes are best accompanied by rice. Being half Chinese, I know that quite well. I’m getting to the point where I can’t eat normal rice. My rice has to be either fried or drenched in some kind of sauce. That might be a weak cop-out to you, but I like to get the most out of my meals. So, having something to put the Butter Chicken gravy over.
This is another very important accompaniment for the Indian dishes we had. There were two main ways of eating this bread. First, you could tear pieces apart and eat them as is Second, and probably the better way, you could dip in the Butter Chicken gravy to create another different dish of sorts.
For those of you who are not familiar with naan bread, let me explain what it is by telling you how long it took me to understand this. When L.A. ordered the naan bread, I really misunderstood what was being said. I heard something completely different. I heard ‘non-bread.’ It makes sense because it’s not your traditional bread. I was finally corrected and after making a few ‘naaaaaaan’ bread jokes, we were back on track. If you’re following, naan bread is more or less a pita. It looks like a pita, feels like a pita, and tastes like a pita. That’s my take on it.
This dish was the one chosen by L.A. Butter chicken is probably the dish most identified with Indian cuisine. I know that whenever I pictured this dish in the past, I would think of a chicken drowned in butter. I can now assure you that it’s far from the case.
Butter chicken is a dish that comprises of chicken, tomato sauce, 35% cream, spices, garlic, ginger, and Methi. The unique part of the chicken is that it is cooked in a clay oven. The large pieces of chicken are topped with a sauce. The sauce is comprised a whole bunch of items such as cumin, cinnamon, and pepper. I’m not sure what the restaurant makes their sauce from, but one can speculate if they so choose.
I only had one portion of this dish. To eat this, I took a few scoops of rice and places them on my plate. I then put the sauce over the white rice. In the portion I took, there was only 1 piece of chicken, which didn’t really bother me so much. The better way to eat this was to combine the sauce with the rice or dip the naan into it.
Being rather new to Indian food, I can’t really describe what this tastes like. All I can say is that I didn’t mind it so much. It’s one of the tamest dishes on the menu when it comes to spices. As a matter of fact, I only really felt the spices from the dishes I had long after I left the restaurant. It was a little warm, but nothing too Earth shatteringly scorching hot.
Of all the dishes I read through the menu during my research phase, this was the one that popped out and needed to be consumed. As a lot of you already know, I consider shrimp to the be the Asian equivalent of bacon (compulsory mention, check!). I’ve tried shrimp in many different types of cuisine, so I can now check off another instance off my bucket list.
Of all the 2 dishes we had at Mahli, this could probably be the simpler one to prepare. The reason is that this dish is mainly comprised of 2 main components, rice and shrimp. There is, of course, a mixture of spices and condiments that would give it the kick that sets it apart from any other normal shrimp rice dish.
The component I really liked in this dish was the rice. Since it was my choice, I was more than happy to make most of the rice disappear. Like I said above, I’m in no position to analyze or even describe what it tastes like. What I will say is that the rice was more than acceptable to me.
The shrimp, on the other hand, was another story. I’m just going to say that it wasn’t my favorite incarnation of shrimp. The shrimp was half peeled, which forced a little manual labour to properly proceed. I felt the shrimp was a little too tough and I couldn’t really detect any real taste that would set it apart from the rice. I could probably eat the rice by itself without ever really needing the shrimp at all.
It’s Too Spicy!!!
Before I get to the end of this post, I want to address something I heard before coming here from various people. It seems to me that spiciness is an excuse to not go to try certain types of cuisine. For the record, not everything in Indian cuisine is necessary spicy. I’m not too big on spicy food either, but I was more than willing to take a chance. After eating some mild dishes, I was glad to have that opportunity. Let’s just say, I don’t like excuses and I don’t buy many of them.
If I had to describe Mahli with one word, it would be underwhelming, in a good way. They don’t need the most complex of set-ups to come across with decent tasting food. There wasn’t one thing tonight that I tasted that I wouldn’t try a second time. For a first time eating at an Indian restaurant, I was more than happy with the experience and really pleased that we chose a place that did that justice.