The Place: New Moghul Fine Indian Cuisine, 4700 Vestal Parkway East, Vestal
The Rundown: Aside from a few items, Indian food is not something I’m overly familiar with. A couple of friends of mine have been trying to change that, though, and they’ve recommended Moghul to me several times. Since one of them is leaving the area, we figured it’d be a good place to give her a celebratory send-off.
Moghul is nestled in the University Plaza, on the part of the Parkway nearest to Binghamton. While this plaza has always housed shops and restaurants, it’s been turned into a student housing complex over the past decade. As such, a lot of what’s in this plaza now has a hip and trendy vibe to it. Moghul itself is right around the corner from Tully’s, and looks rather understated from the outside (especially compared to its neighbor).
Before entering the restaurant, my roommate Scott gave me these words of advice: “The first thing you’re going to want to do is exhale completely. Then, when you go inside the building, allow all the wonderful aromas to envelop you.”
Sound advice, to be sure. Indian food is noted for its judicious use of warm, fragrant spices, and that was in full effect here. Equally stunning was the decor, particularly the iridescent tiles on the wall near our table. A lot of thought and care has gone into the design of this place, and, as a design nut, it always makes me smile when that happens.
A couple of notes about the menu: first, it is huge. Trust me when I say there should be something on the menu to suit most every palate. Second, be prepared to drop some coin, though it’s still tame compared to most other “fine dining” restaurants. Third, nowhere is there a list of non-alcoholic drinks. They do offer them, however, so ask your server.
For my meal, I ordered Meat Samosas (filled pastries), Lamb Korma, and a Sweet Lassi to drink. I opted not to get any Naan this time around, partially because most everyone else did and were open to sharing. The other reason was that Papadums (a type of crispy flatbread, not unlike a cracker) and an assortment of chutneys are complimentary with the meal, and I may or may not have overindulged a bit on them.
I wasn’t overly thrilled with the Samosas. Though they had a fair amount of flavor, they were very, very dry on the inside. I seemed to be the only one with this complaint, though, so I may just be overly picky. The crust was pretty good, though; well-fried and flaky.
I really enjoyed the Sweet Lassi. Lassi is a yogurt-based drink, and can be either sweet or savory. Moghul’s version of a Sweet Lassi is flavored with rosewater, which I was pleasantly surprised by. The floral qualities of the rosewater compliment the tanginess of the yogurt rather well. It did an excellent job of reminding me why I need to eat more rose-flavored things.
I loved the Lamb Korma, which is considered a type of curry dish. It’s a rather sweet one, though, with almonds and either coconut milk or yogurt forming the base. It’s not terribly spicy, and very rich, with a flavor reminiscent of butternut squash. It was, like all of the entrees, served family-style in a tureen, with an accompanying tureen of fragrant basmati rice. Again, the only complaint I had about the dish was that the lamb was on the dry side. Being relatively new to Indian food, I began to wonder if that was the way the meat was supposed to be, until I sampled the other lamb dish on the table, Scott’s Lamb Vindaloo.
Most people who are unfamiliar with Indian cuisine are still fully aware of one bit of knowledge: Vindaloo is insanely spicy, and only for the most foolish or daring. Scott is definitely at least one of those things, and set his sights upon conquering the dish. As I was curious to try it for myself, but unsure of committing to something I might not like, he generously allowed me to sample a bit.
It was, in a word, excellent. Make no mistake, it is very spicy, and if you prefer a milder flavor, you will probably not like it. If you’re a spice junkie like me, though, you will find that while the Vindaloo has a lot of heat, it is not overpowering. The chunks of lamb in this dish were also cooked perfectly, juicy and tender. I can definitely recommend this dish to anyone not turned off by a high spice level.
For those who don’t eat meat, there are a number of vegetarian options available. Pictured here is Saag Paneer, which as its name suggests, is an amalgam of spinach and cheese. I did not try any of this dish (I don’t care for spinach that’s been cooked more than “wilted”), so I can’t speak to the flavor. The person who ordered it enjoyed it immensely, however.
The item pictured here is supposedly Kandhari Naan, but did not match the menu’s description of that dish. As the menu describes it, it is filled with raisins, nuts, and paneer (cheese). This Naan had some paneer in it, but it was loaded with cherries instead of raisins, and I don’t recall finding any nuts in it at all. It was okay, if a little bland where I didn’t get a bite of cherry.
Jason’s dish, the Chicken Kabob Masala, also had an almond-based sauce. The similarites between that and the Korma ended there, though. This dish was a lot more savory, with a much thinner sauce. It was very good on its own merits, though, and the chicken was well-cooked in this dish, as it was in the Vindaloo.
And, last but not least, Plain Naan and Garlic Naan. I opted not to try the Garlic Naan this time around, as I did not believe the flavor of the garlic would have matched well with my dish. Everyone else at the table was after a piece, though, so I imagine it was excellent. The Plain Naan was good, though–soft and warm.
The Verdict: Moghul seems like it’d be a great date or special occasion restaurant. The ambiance is charming and unique, the service is friendly, and the food is very good. They do advertise a lunch buffet, though I am unsure if it is actually still being offered. If that is not the case, however, their prices put them a bit out of reach as an everyday option. Those seeking a unique upscale experience should give Moghul a try.