Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Good and the Bad at Mela Indian Cuisine

I am on Menupalace's mailing list, and once in awhile, I get emails about restaurant promotions. The ones I particularly love are the 50% off nights - where everything on a restaurant's menu is 50% off (excluding alcohol). It is usually offered only on a weeknight (scheduled a few weeks from the day you receive your email), at two seatings (usually 6pm or 8pm), and is recommended that you call in advance for reservations. Mela Indian Cuisine was the participating restaurant several weeks ago, so I dragged my friend Ed to go with me after work.

Before making a reservation, I usually check the restaurant's menu online to see if the place looks decent or if it's even worth going (50% off doesn't necessarily mean I will go for sure). Mela had an extensive menu, and it has been ages since I've had Indian food. PERFECT!

We went for the 6pm seating so the sun was still out. As you can see there's a patio option outside but the weather wasn't warm enough yet at the time.

The "reviews and menu" display. Not too shabby! You can also find them online here.

Mela is definitely not a hole-in-the-wall. I'm more used to the run down Indian places, so I was actually pleasantly surprised at the decor. The white walls and ceiling fixtures make the place look very clean modern. 

I was ready to get the Lychee Martini from their "Special Martini List", but they came back saying that it was not available. I didn't feel like anything else so I left it at just water. This was definitely a big minus! In my opinion, a restaurant should be fully prepared any given night, especially for a night like this. The 50% off night is the best way to attract new customers (such as myself), impress them, and hopefully impress them so much that they will come back again even without the 50% promotion. So at that point, I give Mela "+1" for decor, "-1" for being unprepared.

I already knew what I was going to order since I have done my full research before going. They had a daily special menu too (below) which wasn't available online. Nothing interested me there though.

On-the-house papdum. This is a "+1" especially with the three kinds of dipping sauce they give you with it (I forgot what the sauces are).

As I waited for the food, I noticed that the waiters are milling around looking really unsure what to do. It was obvious to me that they were all very inexperienced. The way the waiters speak to customers, their body language, their hesitation, the way they dart back and forth, I think any one can tell that they have no idea what they were doing. This is again very surprising to me especially on a night like this. 

Just look at the my glass of water! Before taking this picture, my water glass was already 90% full. It did not need refilling. The waitress actually picked up my glass, refilled it ALL the way to the top, and placed it back down beside me (instead of suggesting to give me another glass). How am I supposed to pick this glass up now without spilling?! Definitely another "-1"

Anyway, I am comforted by the sight of the Chef's Sampler Platter. I really really wanted this even though there was only the two us that night (the platter is normally $19, which means it's only $9.50 that night).  I convinced Ed that we should order it because I was starving, and even if we can't finish, we can always pack it to-go.

Everything on this platter was super yummy. There are two pieces of each of the following:


Shrimp Pakura

Murog Kabab

Veg Pakuras and the Paneer Pakuras behind it

Chicken Pakura

Veg (eggplant) Pakura

Some side veggies
Another set of trio dipping sauce for the platter.

That was a huge platter for two people. But I comfortably ate my share and ate some of Ed's share too haha. But wow, that was a lot of fried goodness, and most definitely deserves a "+2".

Our main courses came next. Ed ordered the Tandoori Chicken. They have two options: whole chicken ($20), or half chicken ($13). Ed ordered the half chicken ( $6.50 that night). That is probably the biggest Tandoori Chicken I've ever seen

Although big in size, he says that the chicken wasn't spicy enough ("-1"), which he views is essential for Tandoori Chicken. But otherwise, he said the chicken was tender and cooked just right, and the dipping sauce was good too (together "+1"). 

I ordered the Butter Chicken (regular $13.99, that night $6.99) . I know it is so boring and old and cliché of me, but I can't help it! It's my favorite dish! There was a lot of chicken in this, which I really liked ("+1"). At most restaurants, although the sauce may be amazing, they often only give you like 4-5 small pieces of chicken and I would end up stuffing myself with naan. But not here! Tons of chicken! With a lot of tasty sauce too -I liked how the sauce wasn't too tomato-y...not into that ("+1").

I got some garlic naan (regular $3.99, that night $1.99). I've never seen them cut out in pieces like that. I personally prefer the other kind where you tear off from a big piece of naan. The garlic naan here was a bit doughy and heavy too, definitely not the best  ("-1").

I would like to go back to Mela again. Although the service was not satisfactory, it wasn't like the staff were rude or anything, they were just inexperienced, which is a big difference to me. The delicious food, the plating of the food, and the decor makes up for the lack of experienced service (which I still hope they improve on soon). So what's the final score? 7 "+" and 4 "-"! 

You know what's the biggest plus of the night? THE CHEAP BILL!!! =)

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