Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beltsville Indian Restaurant Gains New Life

Beltsville's new Maurya Kebabs and Curries restaurant on Cherry Hill Road actually has a little more history than visitors might think.

Opened in February, Maurya -- named for an ancient Indian dynasty -- is in fact a transformed version of its older self, Maurya Indian Restaurant, a full-service, fine-dining restaurant that ran two doors down in the same shopping center from September 2001 to December 2005.

Owner Jude Gomez then sold the restaurant, deciding to take a break, while his chef, Franklin Titus Quiah went off to cook in hotels and hospitals. But two years later, they found they both wanted the same thing: to work together at Maurya again -- only this time a little differently.

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"We were seeing the neighborhood was changing," Gomez said. "People wanted fast food, casual kind of thing, rather than fine dining... I wanted something like this where people can come informally, [and] it's a little more affordable than fine dining."

The new Maurya is housed in a smaller place, though its dining area is clean and neatly spaced, with maroon vinyl backing on the booth seats beneath soothing, sea-green walls decorated with classical Indian images.

Maurya's customer base is diverse, Gomez said, and includes residents from the area's large Muslim community. Partly for that reason, the restaurant uses only halal meat -- from animals slaughtered in obedience to Islamic teachings.

Other customers who benefit from the appeal of Maurya's cuisine include various ethnic groups. Lisa Wilson, office manager for Kaiser Permanante's Silver Spring office, said lunch orders from Maurya offer familiar tastes for doctors' meetings, which include professionals of Ethiopian, East Indian and many other backgrounds.

"When I tried it, it was just very good," Wilson said. "I also go down to the store itself for my own lunch hour."

The buffet and menu items showcase specialties as diverse as the customers -- "karahi" dishes from Pakistan, curry and rice dishes from north India, vegetarian dishes from south India, or fish dishes from Bangladesh, where both Gomez and Quiah hail from.

Lunchtime visitors can take advantage of the buffet ($7.95) that runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily and also changes its items daily, "so people don't get bored," Quiah said. A la carte items are served at the table, but in paper plates with plastic silverware, which provide a comfortable contrast to the presentation -- hot, buttered tandoori bread, snow-white rice speckled with rich saffron tints, and fresh, green coriander leaves chopped over the curries for a garnish.

Maurya's most popular dishes include the chicken tikka makhani ($11.95) -- tender, boneless chicken kebab chunks served in a spicy, buttery, tomato-and-cream sauce -- and the chicken tikka masala ($11.95), which is the same chunks sautéed with fresh peppers and onions and cooked in a similar sauce.

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The chicken tikka kebabs ($8.95) themselves are also good sellers, Quiah said, as are the malai tikka ($8.95) -- boneless chicken marinated overnight with ginger, garlic, yogurt and spices.

Among the vegetarian choices, the navratan korma ($11.95), featuring mixed vegetables simmered with spices in a cream sauce, and garnished with nuts and raisins, and the saag paneer ($10.95), spinach sautéed with onion and garlic and mixed with homemade Indian cheese, are customer favorites. But Maurya's goat curry ($11.95) is also a bestselling item.

All curries and kebabs are served with fresh tandoori bread, rice, a side vegetable and the restaurant's only dessert -- kheer, a sweet rice pudding ($3 when ordered as a full dessert).

Maurya's menu also offers a few appetizers, including the traditional samosas ($1.50 chicken, $1.25 vegetable) as well as the very popular chicken wings ($3.50 for six, $10.95 for 20), marinated with Indian spices and served with yogurt, mint and tamarind sauces. And a range of sandwich wraps ($7.95 -- $8.95) offer a variety of boneless meat chunks wrapped with vegetables and special Indian sauces.

Maurya also provides catering, but this service is not limited to the menu --- Quiah and his helpers will work with customers to help fulfill any requests.

See this Gazette.Net article online here

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