Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Maya Indian Grill: A Welcome Addition to Wakefield

In March, Maya Indian Bar & Grill, located on Tuttle Street in Wakefield and occupying the space of the former Laurie's 9:09, opened, making it the only Indian restaurant in the town. There aren't many Indian restaurants in the surrounding area, with a couple in Stoneham and about three in Woburn. I was intrigued when I learned the restaurant was coming and after a few visits there, I believe it's a welcome addition to the area and I'll be returning again soon to check out more of their menu.

The restaurant offers dishes from many different regional cuisines of India, including Kashmiri, Punjabi, Bengali, Malabar, Goan and Madras. They want their customers to "think beyond curries" and experience all of the diversity of Indian cuisines. They are a scratch kitchen, preparing all of their own food, and that is clearly evident from their dishes.

The basic set-up is similar to what was found at Laurie's 9:09, though the decor has significantly changed. There still are multiple dining areas and a small bar, with room for a buffet at lunch. It is casual and comfortable, appropriate for a lunch date, a drink after work, or just a night out for dinner.

Soon after their opening, the restaurant invited me as a media guest to check out their Lunch Buffet, which normally costs $10. I thought the buffet was small, especially compared to other local Indian restaurants, with only 13 choices, including Veggie Pakora, Gobi Manchurian, Basmati Rice, Kadai Paneer, Veggie Curry, Baigar Bartha, Veggie Biriyani, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma, Chicken Tikka, Salad, and Desserts of Carrot Halva and Kunafa. Of the three meat dishes, all were chicken and I wanted more diversity.

As you can see in the following pictures, the food on the buffet looked appealing.

Accompanying the buffet, you receive a basket of fresh, warm Naan, which was delicious, cooked just right. Indian breads are a favorite of mine and I appreciate a well-done Naan, Poori, Chaputi or more. They are excellent for sopping up sauces, as well as helping to minimize some of the spicy heat of certain dishes.

As for the dishes I tried on the buffet, I was largely impressed with their taste and quality, especially the different chicken dishes. The Chicken Tikka Masala had a pleasing, rich tomato taste while the Chicken Tikka was relatively moist and tender, with some nice char elements. The Chicken Korma was a spicier dish, though not overly so, and might have been my favorite of the three. The Veggie Biryani was also one of my favorite dishes, with a nice blend of spices. Overall, I saw much potential  in this restaurant as the food was quite good and it led me to visit a couple additional times on my own, including getting take-out one evening.

In addition, I'll note that the lunch buffet has improved since my initial visit. They have added a few more items to the buffet, and there is more diversity in their meat dishes, such as including fish and goat items. As they are still fairly new, it is good to see that they are seeking to improve the dining experience.

The menu has plenty of interesting options, including Appetizers ($5-$12), From The Grill ($14-$20), Entrees ($14-$19), Vegetarian ($12-$16), and Rice & Breads. Some of the Appetizers appear to be less traditional, but with an Indian spin, such as their Bollywood Wings and Chicken 777, but I like that creativity. Most of the main dishes seem to adhere more to traditional cuisine, from various regions, offering some dishes you may not have seen at other Indian restaurants, which concentrate on more limited regional cuisines. Prices are reasonable for the quality and quantity of food.

They have a full bar, with wine, beer and cocktails. The Wine selection, with glasses from $7-$14, are basically all big name brands, nothing really exciting. The Beer list is more diverse, including 7 beers on tap and 3 Indian beers. The Cocktail list has some interesting cocktails with an Indian touch, such as the use of Mango Puree or Tamarind juice. Maybe try a Tamarind Mojito or a Mayatini.

The Lamb Samosa ($6), on the Appetizer menu, might be the best ones I've ever had. First, the fried shell was flaky and light, with a nice crunch to it. Many others I've had were too heavy and didn't seem as fresh. The minced lamb was exquisite, with such a delightful blend of spices and lots of tender meat. Each bite was a pleasure and it would be tough for me not to order these every time I dined here. They also make a vegetarian version, with spiced potatoes and peas.

Also on their Appetizer menu, you'll find the Chicken Pakora ($8), an ample size of fritters with a chickpeas flour batter. They also make Pakoras with Vegetable, Paneer and Fish. The Chicken was quite tasty, with a light, flavorful coating, with a light crunch and plenty of moist chicken meat inside.  These are like a lighter version of chicken fingers and should please everyone.

I don't have photos of a couple dishes, including the Lamb Vindaloo ($18). They ask you how spicy hot you want the dish, basically low, medium or high heat, and we opted for the medium. The Vindaloo was excellent, with plenty of tender lamb, and a fairly spicy hot sauce, but which had plenty of flavor from the other spices and ingredients. We also tried the Chicken Lagan ($16), a sauce I'd never had before. The Lagan is a Hyderabadi slow cooked creamy sauce made with roasted nuts and spices. We got this dish too with a medium heat and I was impressed with its complex flavors.

The Garlic Naan was loaded with plenty of garlic, with a buttery flavor.

The Paratha Kheema is stuffed with minced lamb and also had a pleasant, buttery taste. I could probably just be happy with a lunch of their various breads.

I've only just begun to explore all the menu options available at Maya Indian Bar & Grill but so far they have presented some delicious, well-made food. Service has generally been very good, except for one incident where they forgot to bring me an order go Basmati rice. However, they have been open for less than two months, so allowances need to be made as they work out the usual opening kinks. I certainly plan on returning soon, and strongly recommend you check out this new Indian restaurant as well.

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