Meet the new and improved Rang Mahal.
I walk into Rang Mahal with Phoebe Buffay’s voice in my head, expecting to dine on “tiny portions of pretentious food”. Instead, what follows is a feast of hearty, generously sized dishes that manage to cater to everyone on my table – picky palates included. If the name Rang Mahal rings a bell, it’s because the Indian restaurant was operational from 2013 to 2018, on the fourth floor of JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.
But it’s a new dawn, Dubai diners.
Rang Mahal has returned with a new chef, a new team, and a whole new menu. At the helm is Chef Alok Kumar along with the culinary team led by Chef Moritz Neumann, who have collectively curated a tantalising menu that traverses India from north to south and east to west. Biryani from Hyderabad, garam masala-infused lamb from Punjab, prawn curry from Kerala – it’s all here. Universal favourites like Dal Makhni, Lamb Rogan Josh and Chicken Tikka Masala have also landed a spot on this menu alongside vegetarian and Jain options, the latter of which isn’t always easy to find.
For the uninitiated, Jain cuisine is not only entirely vegan, but also excludes root vegetables such as potato, garlic, and onion. An example? The Textures of Cauliflower, which pairs spiced cauliflower with creamy broccoli, translating into an appetiser that’s perfect for vegetarians. Personally, I opt to start with the smoky Tandoor Eggplant and Burrata that is the perfect mash-up of Indian and Mediterranean flavours – especially as basil and pine nuts make an appearance. The dish contrasts perfectly with the aptly named Grilled Jumbo Prawns, which are cooked to tender perfection and accented with a bright coriander-lime marinade. I’m already sold.
Over on the mains, ordering the Banana Leaf Baked Chicken from the Bhuna – or roast – section feels like a no-brainer. Whether it’s India, Cambodia or the Caribbean in question, this cooking technique infuses the meat with a fragrant and subtly smoky note. It’s no surprise, then, that it goes back centuries. Between the masala-spiced chicken and the aforementioned Kerala Prawn Curry, I’m reminded why dishes that hail from the south of India are always my first choice. The use of curry leaves, raw mango and slivers of fresh ginger easily make this comforting main the winner tonight.
In a quest for more unusual combinations, I take a chance with the new and novel Baked Morell Mushroom. Now while I wish mushrooms dominated this dish a little more, the variety of peas, corn, and hot and melty Amul cheese – a beloved brand in India – certainly keeps things interesting. My choice of dessert, the Masala Chai Brûlée, is just as playful. For starters, it’s served in an old-timey teapot with Parle-G biscuits on the side. Can you say nostalgic? The cooling creaminess of this dessert is offset with the subtle hit of spices that make masala chai so popular. It comes highly recommended, as does the homemade Cassata Kulfi.
So let’s talk interiors. Between its dim lighting and lounge-y tunes, the ambiance at Rang Mahal feels unexpectedly relaxed. Meanwhile, décor elements such as larger-than-life wood columns, oversized murals in varying shades of red, and sunset-hued backlit panelling all add a sense of place – not only does the name Rang Mahal translate to ‘palace of colours’, but the colour palette also reflects the bold flavours of Indian cuisine. Celebrating a special occasion? Be sure to request a table in one of the restaurant’s private dining nooks that reside at the edge of the dining room and overlook the waters of Dubai Canal.
I’m relieved to report that Rang Mahal has managed to find the sweet spot between predictably traditional and gimmicky cool – the fact that nothing arrived at my table with the fog of dry ice is just the proverbial cherry on top.