Matamaal (Delhi, January 2023)

We ate one meal out almost every day that we were in Delhi in January. Across all those meals there was only one restaurant that we went to more than once: Matamaal. This is partly because their location in the City Court mall in Sikanderpur is a scant 10 minute drive from my parents place in Gurgaon; but it’s mostly because they serve excellent Kashmiri food. Indeed, they may be serving the best Kashmiri food I’ve eaten in Delhi over the years. It helps too that it’s a very nice space and the prices are very reasonable. There’s also a small shop adjoining the restaurant where you can buy ingredients, baked goods and more.

I said above that I think Matamaal (the name translates as “grandmother’s place”) may be putting out the best Kashmiri food I’ve eaten in Delhi. It’s important to put that statement in proper perspective though: 1) as I’ve said before, there have not been very many Kashmiri restaurants in Delhi over the years; 2) my experience of Kashmiri food does not extend very far past those few Kashmiri restaurants. Which is to say, you should not consider me as anything even approaching an expert in Kashmiri food. That said, the food at Matamaal is very good and far better than what I found at the last Kashmiri restaurant I ate at in Gurgaon in late 2018. That restaurant, Khyen Chyen, has now closed. Matamaal’s menu is as Kashmiri-centered as Khyen Chyen’s was—unlike that of the stalwart Chor Bizarre, where I also ate in 2018—but there are very few, if any, signs of generic North Indianification in the execution.

To get to that food you have to first arrive at the City Court mall which is really not one of Gurgaon’s shiny, fancy malls, and indeed is barely a mall at all. Matamaal is located up on the third floor and the walk up to it is not a very prepossessing one—especially if it is raining as it was on our second visit. But when you enter the restaurant you find a very attractive and warm space—not over-large but far from cramped either. Most of the tables offer regulation seating (i.e tables and chairs) but there’s also one traditional floor seating area. We did not see anyone opt for that on our visits.

The menu, as I said, is solidly Kashmiri. On our first visit (as a party of four) we began with an order of excellent kabargah (marinated and twice-cooked lamb ribs) and then went on to eat the palak nadur (lotus stems cooked in spiced spinach puree), chicken yakhni (chicken cooked in a yogurt and fennel-flavoured gravy), mutton rista (spongy mutton koftas/meatballs in a velvety red curry) and the classic mutton rogan josh. We mopped this all up with some rice, a few orders of lavasa (a simple bread) and a very sweet and crispy sheermal. Some chutneys to accompany: mooli/radish, onion, and walnut. To end, phirni and cups of kehwa (the classic, delicate Kashmiri tea) and sheer chai (milky tea with baking soda, which gives it both a pink colour and a savoury flavour and texture).

On our second visit (as a party of three), we once again got the walnut chutney, the lavasa, the teas and the phirni but otherwise explored other corners of the menu. We began this time with nadur monje. These are fritters made with long strips of lotus stems. Fried to a perfect crisp, these called out for beer (alas, there is no alcohol of any kind available). From here we had the mutton goshtaba (more spongy mutton meatballs, but this time in a yogurt gravy), the waza kakur (chicken in a mildly spicy, very red curry) and the Kashmiri rajma (cooked long and slow with no cream or tomatoes).

Everything was at least very good. The standouts, in our opinion, were the kabargah, the rista and the rogan josh at the first meal and the goshtaba and above all, the Kashmiri rajma at the second. Indeed, that rajma may have been my favourite savoury dish across both meals. I specify “savoury dish” in the previous sentence because the phirni was another massive highlight: wonderful delicate texture and flavour. It goes without saying that nothing like anything we ate is available in the US. Though, of course, every North Indian restaurant in the West has something called “rogan josh” on the menu, which typically has little to do with proper rogan josh as made at Matamaal. I know many aficionados of American “rogan josh”; I only wish they could eat the real thing.

For a look at the restaurant and the food, click on a pic below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for service and cost and to see what’s coming next.

Service was friendly and able. At neither meal was our server Kashmiri but they were able to answer our questions about the dishes well. Prices are very reasonable by Delhi standards. With tip the total for the first dinner was less than $40. So $10/head with leftovers. I did not get to see the bill at the second meal but it would have been even lower.

We enjoyed both meals greatly and will be back for sure on our next visit. And next time we’ll bring the boys, who will find much to enjoy on the menu. And next time I will buy more from the store than I did on this occasion, when I restricted myself to a packet each of Kashmiri chilli powder and whole Kashmiri chillies. It was hard to walk away from their range of pickles and breads and next time I will not resist.

Alright, my next restaurant report will be from Minnesota and it will likely be of a Vietnamese restaurant in the South metro. That’ll be on Tuesday. Next week I’ll have more reports from Southern California in December and Delhi in January.



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