Restaurant Review: Maharaja
Food: 4 | Service: 3.5 | Décor: 3.5
Originally located in the historic town of Phaltan, Maharaja opened its outlet in Pune on the bustling Dhole Patil Road. Though known for the Kolhapuri style non-vegetarian thalis, Maharaja serves vegetarian and North Indian fare too.
Maharaja is located next to the legendary Vohuman Café on the busy Dhole Patil Road. The exterior look is traditional Maharashtrian inspired from old wadas and royal homes. The moment you enter you will find a frame of Shivaji which is definitely the inspiration for the restaurant’s name. All through the space, the walls are adorned by paintings and frames of different forms of Maratha splendor. The mezzanine floor is air-conditioned and overlooks the main road through large windows decorated with jharokhas and wooden arches. The seating is a mix of wooden chairs and comfortable sofas.
Owned and run by the Phadtare family from Phaltan, Maharaja is famous for the Kolhapuri style non vegetarian thalis. Keeping up with the theme, the menu is written in Marathi along with an English translation and features their signature special thalis along with North Indian, Tandoor and even Chinese dishes.
We started with the Special Mutton Kolhapuri Thali which is the most popular item on the menu. The thali had Mutton Masala, Kheema, Tambda and Pandhra Rassa, a boiled egg and Mutton Dum Biryani. The mutton masala was tasty and rightly spicy and the meat was tender and perfectly cooked. The kheema was delicious and we gobbled up an extra katori of it. Though a bhakari would be the perfect accompaniment, we chose chapatis which were soft and piping hot when served. The accompanying tambda rassa was spicy and the pandhra rassa was hearty. The highlight of the thali was the mutton dum biryani which was moist and flavourful with generous pieces of tender mutton. Traditionally, thalis come with the fragrant and sticky Indrayani rice and I definitely missed pairing the mutton masala with it. When quizzed about the choice of Biryani over steamed rice, our server told us they shifted to biryani because of popular demand. An option of choosing Indrayani rice would be great though. With egg masala instead of the mutton kheema, the chicken variant, Special Chicken Kolhapuri Thali was equally tasty.
Along with the non-vegetarian thalis, Maharaja also serves the Special Maharaja Veg Thali, which is a vegetarian Punjabi Thali. It comprises of two sabjis, roti, raita, jeera rice and a sweet dish. The veg thali was excellent and very satisfying particularly with a helping of Shrikhand. In addition to this thali, we would love to see a completely Maharashtrian thali.
We also tried their Mutton Dum Biryani which deserves a special mention here. The meat was tender and falling off the bone, the basmati rice was fragrant and perfectly cooked and the masala was perfectly spiced. Along with the Biryani portions, they also serve and deliver it by-the-kilo.
PLUS & MINUS
The Kolhapuri style thalis offered at Maharaja are at par with the other immensely popular restaurants in the city which serve similar fare. The thalis are priced perfectly which make them affordable and value for money. The masalas used in the kitchen are made at home in Phaltan by the family and it definitely makes a difference in flavor and taste. Adding more traditional Maharashtrian vegetarian items on the menu would definitely add value and set them apart from other restaurants in the same league.
Must Try Dishes: Mutton Kolhapuri Thali, Chicken Kolhapuri Thali, Special Veg Thali, Mutton Dum Biryani
Cost for Two: Rs. 700
Address: Shop 11, Millenium Star, Dhole Patil Road, Next to Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune
Timings: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Photo Courtesy: Maharaja
Note: The article was first published in Pune Times on 23 August 2019.