Meatless Monday: A Thali Feast at Maharaja Bhog
I counted 17 items, not including drinks and sauces. And my friend who brought me to Maharaja Bhog had an almost entirely different set of dishes, thanks to a sign placed before her labeled "mild." Another guest had one labeled "dairy" to indicate that her meal should be vegan. It was quickly clear that at this Sharpstown restaurant (on the cusp of Chinatown, in the same shopping center as Peking Cuisine), every diet is respected. Another of my tablemates even left with a box filled with a meal that included gluten-free bread for her husband who suffers from Celiac disease.
Maharaja Bhog is something of a unicorn in many ways, not just its exceptional care for diners' dietary concerns. The restaurant is a chain, including four in Mumbai alone, but there's only one in the United States. Houston is lucky to have it for many reasons. First, although Houston has more than one South Indian all-you-can-eat table service buffets, Maharaja Bhog is the only place I've found to get unlimited refills of a Gujarati-Rajasthani-style thali meal.
What does that mean? You'll be sampling all the northwestern Indian cuisine you can handle, in great variety. Dishes change daily and seasonally. Right now, mangoes are at their best, so my meal included both a mango stew and a gigantically flavorful, smooth mango pudding.
Other highlights included an appetizer course of a chickpea samosa awash with cumin and a section of tomato frittata, both served with a trio of sauces, most notably an excellent mint chutney. A bread (one of two varieties) stuffed with a sweetened mash of chickpeas and lentils was beautifully paired with a tangy soup yellow with turmeric. I didn't finish everything and left crippled by food. But if you have the capacity, the $18 price tag for an all-you-can-eat dinner is one of the best deals in town. For vegetarians, it's a great choice anytime.