Mayur Indian restaurant has been serving delicious Indian cuisine since 1984. I have eaten there over the years and have always had a good experience, but it has been a long time between visits and I wanted to see if it was still as good as I remembered.
The place has been remodeled since the last time I dined there, and the room is quite charming. You are greeted as you enter by a statue of the elephant god Ganesha. Pierced light sconces adorn the walls along with shuttered ornamental wooden window covers.Very soft lighting and two floor-to-ceiling paintings of peacock feathers add to the ambience.
The wallpaper is matted straw. There is a cozy alcove and a smaller dining area near the door. Soft music plays and you can hear your dining companion's voice.
I always choose the mixed hors d'oeuvres when I'm doing a review so I can sample many different offerings.
The samosas had a thin crisp exterior and a lovely soft potato filling accented with peas. A gently rising spiciness didn't overwhelm all the complex seasonings — cumin, coriander and more. Two pieces of chicken tikka, fresh from the tandoor oven, were moist and mild, but the cilantro-based hot green sauce added a nice hit of heat.
The onion bhajis were especially good, with sweet cooked onions deep-fried in a crunchy fritter batter. Two kinds of vegetable pakora are offered, one with cauliflower and one with potato inside. The coating resembles tempura batter.
The last tasty bite was a shami kabob, which was a round, herb-seasoned patty of egg, ground chickpeas and lamb. (Indian kabobs are not skewered but more patty-like.) The plate was divided by a nice crispy papadum, a paper thin, disc-shaped Indian bread cooked with dry heat.
I am a lover of lamb saag, and Mayur's is as good as any I've eaten. Chunks of well-seasoned, tender sautéed lamb redolent with cumin, coriander and garlic are combined with sauteed spinach that is cooked down so it is almost like a sauce. Sometimes it can be bitter, but here it is just perfect.
To accompany our entrees, my dining companion and I ordered some Mayur kulcha, which is rather like a pizza. This version of the leavened bread is pillowy soft and topped with sweet onions and a little paneer (homemade Indian cheese). It was wonderful.
The only dish I found less than stellar was the chicken vindaloo with potatoes, which consisted of slices of chicken breast in a red sauce. Our waiter asked if we wanted it spicy and I said yes, but it was not really very spicy at all.
However, when I tasted the cold leftovers at home the next day, the chicken was very spicy. The sauce had the usual seasonings plus vinegar and tamarind paste. I liked the sauce with the potatoes, but it did nothing for the pallid chicken. It is hard to keep slices of breast meat from overcooking.
For dessert, my dining companion and I elected to try another sampler with four different offerings. The kulfi, which is similar to ice cream, was very icy. It was refreshing but not creamy. Gulag jamun is kind of like a round doughnut. The ball of dough is fried and then served soaked in rose-scented syrup. It's good but a bit too sweet for me.
We loved the kheer. It was similar to rice pudding but made with condensed milk, which gives it a richer, deeper flavor. Ras malai is a cotton soft cheese in a creamy milk sauce topped with crushed pistachios. It's subtle in flavor but quite pleasant.
Mayur has been around for such a long time for good reason. It provides very good Indian cuisine in a lovely, small, quiet spot.
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: 2931 East Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar
11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; 5 to 9:30 p.m. daily
By the glass: $7-$14
Corkage Fee: $15
Contact: (949) 675-6622; mayur-oc.com