Those who don’t believe in reincarnation might reconsider their skepticism upon entering the hefty hammered-metal doors of the year-old MAHARAJA INDIAN RESTAURANT, 2901 Brownsboro Road. Situated in the same building that in the early ’90s housed a different Maharaja — it was occupied during the intervening decade by the late, lamented Shariat’s — the “new” Maharaja, owned by the people who run Shalimar on Hurstbourne Parkway, is a near spitting image of the old.
Primary to this resemblance is the big glass window that allows diners to watch cooks preparing dough and meats in the tandoor oven. Not surprisingly, the bread and tandoori entrees are among the most popular menu items.
Maharaja’s staff, as at Shalimar, is unfailingly polite and willing to help navigate the large menu. The restaurant, also like its parent, offers a lunch buffet as well, although it is not as large as the Shalimar version. And while the menus are almost identical, repeated visits to both have left me with the clear impression that Shalimar still has it over its smaller sibling in the quality of food preparation.
Not that you won’t find some great items. The naan is notewothy, especially the lamb and garlic versions. Chicken tikka is an intriguing dish of chicken that’s been tenderized in a yogurt and citrus marinade and arrives at your table kissed with brown from the tandoor oven. And one of the best entrees is lamb korma, in which tender lamb swims in a creamy sauce laced with cashews, raisins and cardamom. It’s quite delicious with either bread or rice, but watch yourself — the sauce’s mild, sweet-nutty taste hides a deceptive richness, and can fill you up quite quickly.