Short Order: New Traditions at Mughal Darbar

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From the April 2014 edition

If you liked Taj Mahal, north of Campus, you’ll love its Persian reincarnation. Despite a change in ownership, Mughal Darbar is still in the family, and it can still be found in the same repurposed house on North High Street. The menu is where you’ll find this cozy spot’s most significant (and most welcome) departures.

Mughal isn’t your typical rice-and-curry joint; the kitchen follows the Mughlai traditions of Pakistan and North India. The aromatic Murgh Handi ($13.50) is a great introduction to the potent whole spices and dry nuts that define this fusion cuisine. (And I’ll take my meal in an authentic metal handi—another Mughlai staple—over a ceramic plate any day.)

The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, albeit absent at times. Our server answered my questions about pakora ingredients with detail and enthusiasm, yet we waited at least 10 minutes for the check.

We visited during buffet hours ($12, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday), which is recommended if you want to familiarize yourself with the fare. (Show up after 5 p.m. for a more intimate experience.) The buffet-exclusive Chana Masala, a mildly spicy dish of simmered chickpeas, is a highlight—and best when scooped with a warm slice of naan. I also had two generous ladlesful of the filling Punjabi Kadhi. This tangy marriage of fried pakoras and yogurt just begs to be topped with a spoonful—or three—of white rice.

You’ll be tempted to mix everything on your plate into an amoeba of Mughlai goodness. Refrain. From the slow-cooked Dum Aloo ($10) to the pineapple-stuffed Darbar Paneer Pasanda ($12.50), you won’t want to miss the complexity of any one dish. 2321 N. High St., Short North, 614-429-0700, mughaldarbarrestaurant.com