Bangkok Post reviews
Guaranteed to never let down
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: June 24, 2011 at 9:49 am
This Indian eatery weathered the passage of time and still stands tall
Murgh malai kebab.
This place doesn't need an introduction. Every revisit to Rang Mahal is a return to the familiar quality and culinary sumptuousness. It's also a confirmation that the 17-year-old restaurant isn't weakened by its own standing and advancing years. We recently went, and came back feeling, if you permit the metaphor, as satisfied as a pampered, rotund maharaja. Just like when we when there the first time many, many years ago.
I've been to a number of Indian restaurants around town _ and in other countries. I've been to fine-dining Indian establishments where they serve you with silver pots and spoons, as well as to dingy, nostril-overloaded eateries in some dark soi where you can only order in English because only subcontinental immigrants eat there. When I was young, Thai people treated Indian cuisine as an exotic adventure; now, Indian fare has become one of marks of mainstream modern lifestyle. It even has a touch of a cool factor. Rang Mahal has weathered the passage of taste and time, and now, happily, it still stands tall.
This is also the only rooftop Indian fine dining in the city, with the view of Bangkok from the 26th floor of the Rembrandt Hotel on Sukhumvit soi 18. The room, as it has always been, is plush without being stuffy, and the loosely-arranged seating allows breathing space to the decor. Archways and small portals give rhythm and Indian reminiscences; in the evening, a small band fills the air with the unmistakable melodies of the subcontinent.
For starters, our group had murgh malai kebab (395 baht), tandoori prawns (675 baht) and the excellent burra kebab (425 baht). They were all delicious, and we felt panic that we would have trouble with the mains now that the appetisers were so hefty.
Rang Mahal transports you to the ambience of old India.
The burra kebab is a piece of spiced mutton cooked in the tandoori oven. It was smokey, succulent _ a majestic version of Western lamb chop. I sampled a little bit of the tandoori prawns, featuring marinated, charcoal-cooked jumbo crustaceans, and it was certainly up there in seafood heaven.
The chicken in murgh malai had been grilled in the tandoori and seasoned with cream cheese, which gave it a nice zingy feeling. In all, the signature North Indian dishes at Rang Mahal are characterised by finesse and delicacy of an experienced kitchen. But most importantly, you can tell that the restaurant never compromises.
After being distracted by lassi spiced with saffron and pistachio, we moved on to the main courses. We had mutton pepper masala (425 baht), murgh makhanwala, or butter chicken (350 baht), and black lentils dal (250 baht). With these curries we had garlic naan _ perhaps the best in town _ and a plate of saffron rice that we shared.
The mutton was cooked and fried with onions and tomatoes, and what's special was the biting tang of pepper. It goes without saying that the quality of the mutton was superb, a basis for everything that followed. I would say this mutton masala was the most memorable item of the day, but of course you could say that about just any dish at Rang Mahal.
The butter chicken was succulent, creamy and surprising. And for fans of dal, among whom I count myself, the version served at Rang Mahal was strongly recommended for its perfect blend of spice and cooking mastery. The lentils, mixed with garlic, tomatoes and other ingredients, were simmered overnight and topped with butter and cream to make the whole thing a complex palette of tastes. Its texture was especially nice when having it with a piece of soft, mildly flavoured garlic naan.
To round it off, we deflected the cajoling to have the super sweet kulab jamu and instead went for the fine, cool rashmalai. What Rang Mahal did to this favourite Indian sweet _ cream cheese topped with sweetened milk _ was to add thin crumbs of pistachio to the mix, making it chewy, slightly nutty and very special. We knew Rang Mahal would never let us down. In fact, with every visit, it made us like it even more.