Linda

Mughal Palace is a wonderful Indian restaurant that opened in Chelsea in January. That’s right, a great restaurant serving authentic Indian cuisine right here in our area. I suppose people in large cities don’t get excited about something like this, but rural folks like us do.

Emom, our host and server, guided us through the lengthy menu, offering suggestions and explanations. He was friendly and knowledgeable, and I peppered him with lots of questions.

I have fallen for most every Indian dish I ever tried if it has a sauce. So I searched for chicken dishes and found one with a tomato-based sauce and one without. George had quickly excused himself from choosing anything, saying, “I’m completely lost here. So you’d better order for us.”

The owners of Mughal Palace get their spices directly from India, and try to obtain local ingredients as often as they can including meat sourced from a local farm. The first thing that caught my eye when I got out of the car was fresh vegetables growing alongside the building. And as we were seated, I caught a whiff of something being served that made my mouth water. Clearly they create magical flavors with spices here.

To me, no Indian meal is complete without naan ($3.95) The garlic naan here is extraordinary. A trio of condiments include tamarind sauce, tomato and onion chutney, and green chutney with cilantro and jalapeno. What a great way to start a meal!

Emom suggested Nizam’s Vegetarian Choice ($6.95), a sampler of several appetizers — unusual items like rikki tikki tabi and pakora combined with pappadam and samosa that we’d enjoyed before. My favorite turned out to be the mixed vegetable pakora, spiced batter fritters and the gobi pakora, a deep-fried cauliflower version.

One entree I ordered was butter chicken ($14.95). I know, sounds awful. But our daughter Hilary once told me that a dish I loved, chicken lababdar, was like butter chicken, a popular dish. Pieces of chicken breast were marinated in yogurt, charbroiled, then served in a creamy sauce of butter, spices and herbs. One bite and I was in heaven.

Our second entree, chicken tikka masala ($15.95) is boneless barbecued chicken in a spicy creamed tomato sauce. I had ordered medium spice for our food which was perfect for us. It definitely had a kick of heat, but wasn’t overwhelming. They certainly have a deft hand with spices, and you can order it from mild to extra hot. If you think all Indian food is too spicy for you, think again! You choose the level of spiciness.

There is nothing boring about Indian food with bursts of flavor like ginger, cilantro, cumin and coriander. I love Indian food and could easily eat it every week. And although I make curry at home, it can’t hold a candle to authentic Indian flavors. I am very happy to find Mughal Palace so close to home.

George

Mohammed and Ummay Alam owned a very popular Indian restaurant, Hi Bombay, in Portland for many years. We are lucky that they have moved to our area and opened this wonderful place.

As a “Mainer” whose favorite meal was once beans and franks, it is a bit surprising that I am such a fan of Indian cuisine. But I do love it. Of course, I do not understand it, so thank goodness Linda does. She ordered all of our food for this dinner. And both of us said, “Mmmm” on our first bites.

I especially loved the sweet dip that came with the appetizers, and everything in the mixed sampler appetizer was delicious. My favorite was, like Linda’s, the pakora. They offer a good selection of beer and wine (including Sula Vineyards Nashik Indian wine), and I chose one of my favorite Indian beers, Taj Mahal Lager (only $5.95 for 22 ounces). Both entrees went well with the ice-cold lager.

Many of their dishes are gluten-free, there are lots of vegetarian choices, service is good and prompt, and we really loved the beautiful interior room. The front room is more casual, and in the back they have a bar.

We had no room for dessert, but Emom was so enthusiastic about their masala tea, telling us that it is a big tradition in Indian families. Boy, was it good! And surprisingly sweet.

We’ll be visiting Mughal on a regular basis, I’m sure, perhaps soon for their popular weekend luncheon buffet — just $10.95 for a feast served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.