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Entries in Ming III (2)

Thursday
Jul122012

Video Visit: Khatta Mitha & Ming III

Friday
Feb032012

Khatta Mitha - Ming III

Khatta Mitha
Ming III

291 Turnpike Road (Route 9 West)
Westborough MA 01581

(508) 366 – 0060 , (508) 366 - 0090

Fellow blogger Bruce Tretter suggested I try out Khatta Mitha, a restaurant serving Indian Cuisine on Route 9. Bruce’s recommendations are always good, so I looked forward to trying this restaurant.

The last Indian restaurant I went to was in London, and would be characterized by a single word: heavy. Heavy furniture, heavy wall coverings, dark…. While I respect a restaurateurs’ right to decorate in any manner, it left me with an unfavorable impression.  Just not fun.

So with some trepidation I entered Khatta Mitha, expecting something very different. Let’s just say I had a great time, and I wished I went there sooner.

I had my choice of a lunch buffet, or ordering off the menu. I went for the buffet, and ending up taking a bunch of pictures, raising the eyebrows of the staff. Soon, the owner, Rajan Mehtani, was confidently at my side. “Make sure you have the goat.”

While I’m not the Phantom Gourmet, I generally do not announce who I am. I don’t hide my identity; I just want to try and give as unbiased as review as I can.

Since my cover was blown, I did ask Rajan to spend some time with me and take me through the high points. It was a fascinating conversation.

Khatta Mitha (in the former Subway location) and Ming III (in the former ski shop) are different restaurants, with one owner, although there is a fair amount of back and forth between the two. For example, as I sampled the Khatta Mitha buffet they also served me some chicken from Ming III. Ordering from one or the other is fine, as is going between the two. They opened October 31, 2010.

Rajan’s father operates a seven restaurant in New Jersey, with a sister opening a Dallas location after the Westborough location. Rajan, who lives in Shrewsbury, got into the family business after an investment advisor career.

Khatta Mitha, which means bittersweet in English (according to their recent trademark filing,) offers a “fresh, new spin on Indian food” (according to their press materials.)  Khatta Mitha is known for it “chaat” station (appetizers!) and sweets.

Décor was selected by Rajan’s wife, and is tiled floor, with Happy New Year banners on display (for India’s Republic Day, January 26, 2012), late 70’s and 80’s Indian music, and a wide screen TV displaying an Indian movie. (The sound was off and the movie was obviously a love story, with a couple running to each other through the field of flowers. Rajan laughed, and said it was a Bollywood movie.)

Ming III is a fusion of Indian, Chinese and Thai influences. It has carpeted floor, and some large elevated (4”) booth seating, rich wood, and a beer/wine bar.

The concept is Katta Mitha is casual and fun, with Ming III being upscale.

One of the things I quickly noticed is there were groups of people, and I commented same to Rajan. He explained Indian friends and family rarely meet at each other’s’ house, preferring to go out. On this day there were only two “single” or “double” diners, everyone else was in larger groups. Rajan estimates 60% of diners come from more than one family.

Some came and ate, others came for dessert then headed out after a quick visit.

Rajan explained everything was made fresh every day in the restaurant, including the bread prepared in the clay oven. He is obviously proud of what he’s built, showing off the fully tiled kitchen area, including a tour of the refrigerator and dry storage. (I felt like Kitchen Nightmare’s Gordon Ramsay getting the tour of the immaculate refrigerator.)

The menus of the restaurants are as varied as the décor.

Katta Mitha’s menu reflects the emphasis on chaat. In the evening there is a dedicated chaat station, and I could easily see myself dropping in for some light dessert and coffee similar to how I might drop in at Finale (although not as elaborate.)

Rajan offered the number one non-vegetarian items on the menu are chicken dishes:

-       Murgh Tikka Masala – grilled boneless chicken pieces cooked in tangy tomato and cream based sauce flavored with herbs and spices

-       Murgh Vindaloo – boneless chicken pieces cooked in a very spicy sauce made of vinegar and lots of hot red chili peppers

(I should point out I had water during my visit. Some of the items had a lasting heat to them, and the water glass was always topped off. All good!)

Top selling sabz (vegetarian) entrees include:

-       Paneer Makhani – cottage cheese cubes cooked in rich cream sauce along with onions, tomatoes, natural spices and herbs

-       Malai Kofta – vegetarian and cheese dumplings in rich cream sauce made of onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes.

Rajan called out the following items from Ming III’s menu :

-       Appetizer – Drums of Heaven – chicken winglets turned delicately by hand into lollipops, seasoned with ginger and garlic, deep fried and glazed with a thick sauce made of fresh herbs, chili paste, and spring onions. I had some of these, and they are heavenly….somewhat like General Gau’s chicken without the sweet syrupy taste.

-       Soup – Coriander Soup – vegetable of chicken and egg hot soup with golden mushrooms, chopped coriander leaves and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Unique!

-       Papaya Salad – handful of green papaya shreds tossed along with shredded carrots, fresh chilies, chopped basil and toasted peanuts.

-       Chicken – Chili Chicken – boneless chicken stir fried with fresh green chilies, spring onions, and garlic in chef special sauce – cooked Hakka style

-       Vegetable – Vegetable Manchurian – vegetable dumplings finished in spicy Manchurian sauce

Rajan is pleased with how the business has grown, and our conversation went past the 3:00 closing time for lunch. People were still coming up to the doors, even closed. Rajan commented how he lets his staff take the time between 3 and 5 for a break in an otherwise long day, and has arranged for discounted memberships at SHARC for staff to recharge.

For his next venture, he’s like to take the concept to a 4 star hotel, or even do a standalone location.

According to Rajan, Westborough was selected as a location for the business, drawing from a rich Indian population in Westborough, Shrewsbury, Worcester and Framingham. For years he drove by their location with his wife often pointing out how it would be a great place for a restaurant. Some of the customers used to go to New Jersey to dine at one of his father’s properties, and they are pleased to stay local.

For me, I found a clean, pleasant, and fun place. It has a nice international feel to the menu, and I particularly like the idea of having a non-alcoholic late night (adult) dessert place in town. The non-Indian population of diners is growing, and with good reason.

In my work, I am interfacing with a large operation in New Dehli, where Rajan was born. One of the principles will be in the United States next week…and I look forward to taking him Khatta Mitha.

Hours
Lunch    Tuesday – Sunday                      11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Dinner   Tuesday – Thursday                   5:00 PM to 10:00 PM
            Friday – Saturday                       5:00 PM to 10:30 PM

Khatta Mitha & Ming III get a GREEN LIGHT – Go and enjoy.

About the RAG scale:

       Green Light – Go and enjoy

       Amber Light – Use caution

       Red Light – Save your time and money