Today, I met a friend of mine, a former teacher at my middle school, who I typically introduce to new Indian restaurants and he usually leaves satisfied. This time I decided to introduce him to Mahan, located on Main street in downtown Alhambra. There is a second Mahan in Old Town Monrovia on Myrtle Ave, which opened in 2018.
Mahan is run by a Sikh family; their members alternate working at the Alhambra and Monrovia locations. A Sikh chef hailing from Punjab, “the bread basket of India,” is reason enough to eat there. Sikhs are entrepreneurial and hard working. While Mahan specializes in Punjabi food, the menu also offers diverse dishes from different parts of India. You can order a full-fledged a la carte dinner or a $20 dinner thali with a choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
Their meat is halal and they serve meat specialties, nihari and haleem, which are popular among South Asian Muslims. I was surprised they offered haleem, which is a tasty blend of wheat, barley and lentils with meat. The owner’s son explained he was inspired to serve it after his Hyderabadi friend’s mother cooked it for him. I highly recommend this dish. Unlike most Pakistani restaurants which serve it with shredded meat, Mahan mixes in large pieces of flavorful lamb instead. Their bar offers an extensive selection of beer, wine, and creative Indian cocktails. They are not afraid to experiment.
Today’s lunch buffet was the best I have had in a very long time. A buffet is the best way to expose a newbie to Indian food. It is cheap (about $11 per person), and it offers a sampling of a wide variety of dishes. The best dishes served today were palak (spinach), chicken tandoori, curry pakora and goat curry. And as with all buffets, I ended my meal with a sweet, delicious dessert, kheer (a cardamom flavored rice pudding), which has no resemblance to the stodgy British rice pudding.
My friend loved Mahan’s food: within minutes he finished two servings from the buffet. This is definitely one of my go to Indian restaurants in the Pasadena area.
Outside of Alhambra location (mahan.com)