When you walk into Makhani Modern Indian, the first thing you’ll notice is probably a peacock. Yes, a peacock. On the left wall of the restaurant, there is a eight–by–twenty foot mural of a peacock, vibrant and colorful. The murals were hand–painted by artist Evan Lovett, whose meticulous work is reflective of the philosophy of the establishment in general.
Owner Shafi Gaffar spent his childhood working in the Indian restaurants that his family owned in Philly. After studying business and finance management at Temple University, he decided to get back into the food industry. His vision was to create a restaurant with higher quality food than other Indian restaurants straight from farm to table.
The food at the restaurant isn’t what you’d see at your typical Indian curry house. Makhani incorporates different items such as lobster, scallops, lamb shanks, and Chilean sea bass, atypical for traditional Indian dishes. Oftentimes, Indian restaurants have dishes pre–made, but at Makhani everything is made fresh to order. Some dishes are marinated in spices for up to 10 hours before they’re served. Sometimes, this means dishes can take a bit longer to come out, but it’s well worth the wait. “Even if people are waiting an additional 10–15 minutes for their food, it’s fresh,” the owner reiterated.
The speciality at Makhani is pretty much anything mango. The menu boasts a mango rum drink, Indian mango chicken, and for dessert, a delicious mango raspberry cheesecake. The owner’s family owned mango farms in Bangladesh for generations, so Gaffar knew that he would incorporate the sweet fruit into many of his dishes.
Another special element of Makhani is the head chef, Sanjoy Banik. Banik is a seasoned chef who has worked in all types of restaurants, but he specializes in Indian cuisine. He’s the go–to chef for many people visiting the US. He’s even cooked for Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The owner was just a teenager when he first met Banik, who was working at his family’s restaurant at the time. Gaffar continued to have a relationship with Banik and knew that the chef would be the perfect person to help execute his vision.
Located at 3rd and Market streets, Makhani is in the heart of Old City. Recently, Old City has had a boom of new restaurants. This week alone, five have opened in the area. Although it’s a bit of a trek from campus, it’s definitely worth it for the restaurants and great energy.
The grand opening of the restaurant this weekend was a success, but for the owner and chef this is just the beginning. Makhani is also hoping to be a place for private events, with an upstairs lounge area opening soon.
So, next time you’re in the mood for rich flavors and spice, take a trip to Old City, walk around, and find yourself being pulled in by the ambiance of Makhani.