Moti Mahal Delux – New Indian on the Upper East Side

Moti Mahal Delux is not just another Upper East Side eatery; it is a historical goldmine. Moti Mahal Delux offers recipes that are distinguished by inventive flavor combinations and the finesse of Mughlai cuisine. Moti Mahal was first established in 1920 by a Hindu Punjabi named Kundan Lal Gujiral. Kundan is renowned for his famous invention of tandoori chicken as well as Moti Mahal Delux’s most popular and outstanding dish, butter chicken. When a restaurant has this kind of reputation, you know it’s going to be great.

Unlike a typical “Little India” restaurant, Moti Mahal Delux on East 63rd Street and First Avenue is modern and elegant. To start us off as guests of the restaurant, our friendly waiter brought over some traditional Papadum, a thin, crispy wafer-like cracker made of lentils, chickpeas and rice flour.

After the Papadum we delighted in an appetizer called Roomali Khasta, a combination of pine nuts, cheese, and sundried tomato rolled up like a spring roll and served with a garlic dip. These rolls were crispy and bursting with flavor. The presentation was also impressive – they were served in individual shot glasses. Our second appetizer was another outstanding vegetarian starter, the Dahi Palak Kebab, lightly fried spinach bites, served with a creamy yogurt sauce.

Excited by the large and varied menu, we sampled some of Moti Mahal Delux’s signature Mughlai entrees to keep our tummies happy. A serving Murgh Tandoori, also known as their Tandoori Chicken, and Anardana Tikka, chicken cooked with black pepper and pomegranate marinade, were quickly consumed and enjoyed. Both of these dishes were moist and palette pleasing.

Next we sampled the dish that I was most looking forward to – the Daal Makhani. These black lentils are slathered in a home churned butter sauce whose orange color is just as delicious in your mouth as they are a feast for your eyes. This is definitely one of Moti’s stand-out dishes, along with the succulent butter chicken. Both are made with their signature home churned Ghee, which is clarified butter, a recipe originating in South Asia.

To accompany these rich dishes, we sampled some pickled potatoes, which offered a nice tang, as well as some garlic nan, perfect for soaking up every last morsel of the butter sauce. The menu also offers several Biryani combinations, which are rice dishes slow cooked with meat, raisins and spices.

Whether you are a vegetarian, carnivore, pescatarian, or even vegan, Moti Mahal Delux on 63rd Street and First Avenue has everything to satisfy a discerning palate. Their food is a step up from other Indian restaurants while also possessing that homemade, filled-with-love taste. Go check it out, I promise it will delight!

Moti Mahal Delux
1149 First Avenue, NYC

Opening photo courtesy of Moti Mahal Delux, all others by Chelsea Herman