In today’s world of micro managed consumerism, where mega retail and F&B outlets have started expanding ‘back’ on to highstreets with mini versions of their giant selves, the word express has come to mean a lighter, smaller, faster version of the original, e.g. Carrefour Express, Lulu Express, etc. So, it’s only fair that I assumed that Maharaja Express was a mini-me version of Maharaja Bhog, one of my favourite thali franchises. Afterall Rajdhani has done something similar with their street concept. My dear Uncle Shapour used to say, to assume is to make an ass out of u and me. Yeah, I felt like hee-hawing when I walked in to Maharaja Express in Meena Bazaar and found there was no connection with Maharaja Bhog.
I ordered a thali anyway. But only after I had them bring me a portion of pani puri to calm my nerves. The restaurant is tucked away in a side street just off Al Fahidi Street and, quite typical of the Jack-of-all-trades restaurants in the area, has a chaat corner as you enter which can be accessed from a window opening to the street. Its interior is new and therefore clean and well kept.
Back at our table, the pani puri was served with a potato filling and a deliciously tangy and spicy fire water but no tamarind chutney to lower the temperature. I liked it.
The thali was also very good but not nearly as varietied as any of the big boys, Maharaja Bhog included. But at AED21 for a full, unlimited Gujurati thali, I must admit that it was excellent value nonetheless.
This is a newish business, so they’re all smiles to walk-ins, especially (for some reason) non-Indians. But once all the smiling and welcoming is over, they can be a little slow in both, order-taking and kitchen to table delivery. The other thing to bear in mind is that this is not a thali restaurant, it is a restaurant which also serves thali. Therefore, you are not going to get that famous Guajarati-Rajasthani pampering. We had to ask for refills, something almost unheard of in any of the mainstream thali joints. I won’t make a secret of the fact that I was very annoyed at finding this wasn’t part of the Maharaja Bhog group. I came here specifically because I thought it was. If I had known it wasn’t, I would have gone to Rangoli instead. And now that I know, I still will.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join me on Instagram @ravenousxerxes or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.