One of two new Indian restaurants to open on Milwaukee's East Side (the other one, Indian Rasoi, replaced Dancing Ganesha at 692 N. Van Buren St.), Mayura sits at 1958 N. Farwell Ave. in the new construction commercial building that houses Patty Burger and Custom Tattoo.
Although it just moved in late last year, it smells as though it's been there forever -- and in this case, that's a great thing. As is common with ethnic foods, the prominent perfume of curry, coriander and basmati rice greet you upon entry -- a sensory tease for any hungry diner.
Mayura means "peacock" in Sanskrit and the restaurant's colorful décor reflects the beauty of the bird. While co-owners Manjit Singh (who also owns Brookfield's Taste of India) and Laxman Kailas take a traditional approach to wall art and table settings, the lighting and bar area are decidedly modern, a comfortable mix that makes the large dining room feel refreshingly bright and clean.
The restaurant runs an extensive lunch buffet ($8.95) daily from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., offering both carnivores and vegetarians a bountiful feast from which to compile a satisfying (and usually over-satisfying) meal of traditional Indian dishes.
Depending on the region, Indian food can be quite diverse. Mayura's cuisine favors northern India, where the weather can be both scorching hot or bitterly cold and the food is generally rich and hearty. Perhaps because of the climate, northerners have taken to consuming more meat than the traditionally orthodox vegetarian southern Indians.
Highlights of the complex menu include chicken shaslik, chicken breast marinated in cream, lemon and spices with peppers and onions; kari pakora, deep fried vegetable fritters slow cooked with a classic yogurt and chickpea flour sauce; and gajar ka halwa, a popular warm dessert that cooks chopped carrot in milk with raisins, ground almond and sugar.
The lunch buffet begins with an array of sides: Pakora stuffed with both cauliflower and potato, beans poriyal (curried green beans mixed with caramelized onions and mustard seeds), and uttapam, a savory crepe topped with carrot, onion and lentils.
Main courses are divided up between meaty and vegetarian and are labeled as such. Meat eaters will enjoy chicken and lamb prepared in the usual ways -- vindaloo (potatoes and spices) and masala (thick curry sauce). Vegetarians will love all the panir -- homemade cheese -- and chettinad, which is almost sweet with curry spice.
Once you're settled with your plate piled high, a server comes to deliver warm naan, the tandoor-baked unleavened flatbread to help soak up the often liquidy dishes.
Hard as it may be, try to save room for dessert. Mayura's buffet tempts with five or six sweet options, including the previously mentioned gajar ka halwa. There's mango ice cream, rice kheer (pudding with raisins, cardamom and pistachios), gulab jamun (those infamous golden deep fried cheese balls dipped in honey and rose water) and fruit pudding. Fortunately, the small white dessert bowls allow for a sampling of each.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”