As if by fate, I was invited to visit the Crab Festival at Mahesh Lunch Home, mere days after having passed by this very restaurant and saying aloud that I needed to try it. (I’m going to try that trick more often.) In fact, this fortuitous occasion took place when the queen of all foodies and lover of all seafood (my mother!) just happened to be in town.
Many of my Indian friends have recommended this restaurant to me. It’s a Mangalorean seafood restaurant that hails from Mumbai and opened in Dubai in 2013, right around the corner from the famous Al Attar Shopping Centre in Karama.
This place is a seafood lover’s dream. The menu is full of nothing but seafood. Big fish, small fish, king fish, lady fish, fat fish, flat fish, prawns, squid, lobster, clams, and, of course, crab. And on this occasion, there was even more crab than usual with a special menu dedicated entirely to this crustacean.
The menu is extensive and despite reading descriptions of the dishes, I still found it challenging to know what to order. So we took assistance from the managers. This is Chef Aseervadam Gaddala who was getting ready to prepare our feast.
Truth be told, this isn’t the most beautiful food out there, but what it lacks in attractiveness, it makes up for in taste.
We started with the Crab Maryland Soup – thin vegetable broth with loads of soft, delicate crab meat and veggies inside. It was tasty and light, pleasant way to start off the meal.
Our first starter was an order of one of Mahesh Lunch Home’s signature dishes – Butter Pepper Garlic Prawns. The prawns were perfectly cooked with butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Beware if you’re sensitive about garlic breath as this dish is garlic-tastic. The garlic is so delicious and flavourful that I was eating it by the spoonfuls, but as you can see, there’s a lot of it!
The next starter was the classic Fish Tikka, in this case, hammour marinated in spices and cooked over charcoal fire. The fish was soft, succulent and rich with flavour.
Starter number three was the Basa Fish Roasted, described as marinated basa grilled and tossed with olive oil, basil, garlic and chili. This is a thin fillet of white fish with a garlicky topping. We found the fish a bit chewy, especially after the hammour, and as we’d already overdone it on the garlic from the prawns, we weren’t as fanatical about this dish.
The last starter was the Squid Chili Green Pepper. When I look at it, I think udon noodles cooked in a Bolognese sauce. When I taste it, the texture of the squid reminds me of the Filipino isaw I ate at Al Attar Centre on my last trip to Karama.
Time for a break. This gorgeous pink drink looks deceiving. To my Western eyes, it looks like a strawberry smoothie, but in fact it’s a salty digestive drink that tastes similar to an Indian buttermilk. It’s called Sol Kadi and is made with kokum (a plant in the mangosteen family), coconut water, ginger and salt. It has a strong and distinctive flavour that I can’t quite describe, so that must be the flavour of the kokum.
But of course, what we were here for was the crab. These crabs are super-resilient, super-hard, super-fresh omnivorous Sri Lankan mud crabs. This crab is still kicking. He must know he’s going to be eaten…
We had our one mud crab prepared two ways. This was easily the hardest decision of the night. We had to choose from ten different styles of preparation (and that’s just the mains) and finally settled on the Crab Rampuri Masala and the Crab Peethala Pulusu (neither of which means much to me!)
The Crab Rampuri Masala came in a thick brown taar korma gravy in a northern Rampuri style. The gravy was made with almonds, onions, and tomatoes and was so thick and rich with flavour and a spicy finger-licking goodness. I ate this with appams, the white South Indian concave rice flour pancake and it was a perfect combination.
The second preparation was Crab Peethala Pulusu – an Andhra-style dish made with tamarind sauce and a touch of coconut milk. This was also delicious, but the gravy was far thinner and didn’t quite have the same effect on me as the Rampuri.
Of course, the crab itself is a bit of effort to eat as the shells are very thick. It’s cracked quite well for you, but you’ll still need to do some work to get the meat out of every last crevice. Obviously, this is not a fine dining restaurant so you’ll get a bib and some tools so prepare to get your hands dirty.
Our final main course of the night was the Prawns Chettinadu. This is the dish we’re still dreaming of. This was another thick, rich gravy made with onions, tomatoes, curry leaves and coconut milk. This dish isn’t the prettiest to look at, but the taste was divine. The gravy was slightly sweet from the onions, slightly spicy from the chili, but oh so good, especially with the appam.
For dessert we had the tender Coconut Payasam – a simple sweetened coconut milk with slivers of almonds and tender young coconut inside. This was a refreshing way to cap off our delicious meal.
Verdict: If you’re a fan of both seafood and Indian food, then this is the place you want to be. If you’re not so familiar with Indian cuisine, you may need help in deciding what to order, and you may need to go back a few times to work out which preparations you prefer. Any which way, get ready for an explosion of flavours, as well as some flavours you may never have tasted before.
Note to self: The Chettinadu and Rampuri with appam are absolute definites for me for next time. Leave the rings at home so you can really get stuck in.
Mahesh Lunch Home
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed St (Near Burjuman)
Tel: 04 396 8087
Chow for now!