No royal treatment at this Beavercreek restaurant

Photo: Special Thali at Beavercreek’s Maharaja

By Paula Johnson

DCP Dining Pal Jurgen Durstler, PIP (Palate In Progress), and I spent an evening at Beavercreek’s Maharaja restaurant, and the experience made me reflect on how important the totality of a restaurant is, specifically how service, atmosphere, value, and not just cuisine really make a difference. We arrived at Maharaja to an empty dining room early on a Tuesday. A stale atmosphere reminiscent of the days of tobacco hung in the air, and the mirrors, which lined a wall of booths, exhibited the prints of many a previous diner. These two things hit me immediately, and while not deal breakers, they made an impression, one which could possibly be overcome by standout cuisine. There are most certainly places I go that I give high ratings to despite similar deficits.

Rating Rant

Our experience made me want to elaborate on our new DCP rating system. The system is designed to make clear at a glance what a place’s strengths and weaknesses are. Of course food is given the most attention with 50 percent, followed by 25 percent service (the other 25 percent is price/value). It’s been said that stellar service can elevate the most mediocre of meals, and that poor service can destroy the best. This begs the question of what standards to apply to global international style restaurants. After all, when you dine in a white tablecloth restaurant, you expect a level of service commensurate with the ambiance and elegance the restaurant is trying to achieve. So it’s to be expected the service will be more formal and refined. But, no matter the level of casual a place may be, there are still basic criteria that should be met. First and foremost, friendliness. I can categorically say that our experience was largely and detrimentally informed by the poor attitude and performance of our server.

We experienced two servers: one an older gentleman who took our order and might have been an owner, and a young woman. The gentleman’s manner was indeed friendly and open; sadly the same was not the case with the other server with whom we had the most interaction. She projected the opposite of welcome, making us feel as though we were imposing. PIP ordered iced tea and only received it after three requests. (We were one of only two tables she was serving, the only two in the restaurant in fact.) When delivering our food, she perfunctorily handed us the plates saying, “Here.” We would have been able to overlook this and a lot else if there had been a shadow of a smile given to us.

So what did we eat and how was it? We began with Papadum, crispy lentil wafers served with onion chutney and tamarind sauce, and a Non-Vegetarian Appetizer Platter ($6.99). The platter featured tasty hunks of tandoori chicken and a fine samosa, but the fried breading on everything else was rather bland and disappointing. We moved on to some Indian classics: Thali ($17.99), Aloo Gobi ($11.99), Lamb Vindaloo ($13.99), and a bread basket ($5.99), which I found lacking as it offered three similar types of naan, all of which were a little too charred. I was hoping for a wider selection of some of the other less familiar Indian breads.

Platter Chatter

Thali refers to the large metal platter on which the meal is served. On it is a collection of metal containers featuring dishes showcasing a variety of colors, textures, aromas, and flavors. This one included dal makhani, lamb curry, a tandoori chicken leg, shrimp saag, raita, and lentil soup. (There are two other versions of Thalis available at Maharaja.) If I had to letter grade this collection of dishes, I would award a B-, acceptable but not outstanding.

Vindaloo is a dish of Portuguese influence from the southern region of Goa. It should be tangy and hot – the name is derived from the Portuguese vinegar and garlic, vinho and alhos. A gravy of deep aromatic herbs and marinated chunks of lamb and potatoes make this one of my all time favorite Indian dishes. Jurgen and I both found Maharaja’s version to be lackluster and not sufficiently spiced, though we had requested heat. We found the Aloo Gobi – cauliflower and potatoes cooked with ginger, garlic, and spices – to be fine, fair and acceptable like the Thali and Vindaloo, but not outstanding. It was agreed that there seemed a general overall blandness and lack of depth and richness in most everything we tried.

We closed with a dish of Kulfi ($2.75), described as Indian ice cream made with almonds, pistachios, and cashews. (They were out of another dessert we wanted to try so we agreed to share one.) I love Kulfi, but was surprised that this one arrived bright orange and mango flavored, not as promised on the menu.

Maharaja is Sanskrit for great ruler or great king. It is doubtful that a maharaja would have been satisfied with this Maharaja. Here is hoping that future patrons will receive more royal treatment.

Maharaja is located at 3464 Pentagon Blvd. in Beavercreek. For more information, please call 937.431.1414 or visit MaharajaDayton.com.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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