Mayuri, Reston, VA

I started my dinner with a Kingfisher ($6.95 for a 650 ml / 22 ounce bottle), and perused Mayuri’s fairly lengthy menu for something I was unfamiliar with. Mayuri means “(female) peacock” – the national bird of India – in Hindi, and sure enough, the front page of the menu is decorated with a big blue one (I suppose I’ll always remember this now). While I sipped my beer, my server brought out a complimentary basket of standard-issue Pappadam with a bit of tamarind and coriander chutney. Kingfisher is headquartered in Bangalore, is India’s largest selling beer, and has been brewing since 1857 (note to Tom S – “since before the days of the Raj,” by precisely one year) :)

I’ve become fluent enough with many ethnic menus, including Indian, to order items simply because I have no idea what the words mean, and tonight was no exception.

Hara Dania Kabab ($5.99) was a plate of about 8-9 battered nuggets, looking almost identical to battered, fried dates. “Hara” = Green, “Dania” = Coriander, and these were beignet-like morsels translated on the menu as “cottage cheese rolls with spinach and green coriander leaves.” Almost surely purchased pre-made, these were uniform in size, and came out perfectly hot throughout within minutes, without any visible signs of either frying or microwaving – perhaps placed into a super-hot tandoor? Regardless, they just weren’t very good, with the herbs too bitter, and the filling too salty, the shards of paneer not enough to compensate. As I ordered my next item, I asked for an order of Raita ($1.99) to tone it down, and my server brought the watery version over and said it was with his compliments – a nice gesture, much appreciated.

I’d never before heard of Pesarattu ($6.99), a southern dish of “green gram [Mung bean] crepes stuffed with onion,” but it didn’t matter because they were out of them. So instead, I ordered a second small plate, Fish Amritsari ($8.95), a traditional Indian fried fish dish with Punjabi spices. I knew amrit was the nectar drunk by Guru Nanak (the father of Sikhism), but did not know that Amritsar was the town in India where this dish originated (what I know, I really know; what I don’t know, I don’t know at all).

These were also double-bite sized morsels, about 8-9 of them, made with sturdy, boneless, flaky whitefish (perhaps haddock), and they also came out remarkably fast, in less than five minutes; yet, showed no signs of improper heating, or glistening oil, or anything else suspect about the cooking process. They were also perhaps purchased pre-made and finished in a hot tandoor, but were delicious, a good value, and I recommend them highly. These worked well with both chutneys and the raita, and I thought enough of them to buy a second order to go. Do try them if you come here.

As I waited for my carryout order, I finished the meal with a Gajar ka Halwa ($2.99), “Gajar” = Carrot, “Halwa” = Scrambled, the dessert being a carrot and milk pudding (with not much milk used), but with [get this] “the touch of green cardamom.” Pleasant, moderately sweet, and a nice way to end the meal – you’ll sometimes see this dessert on Indian lunch buffets.

Thus ends my nightly quest to expand my Hindi vocabulary while also expanding my culinary horizons, gonzo style.

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