There’s nothing like sitting down to a home cooked meal that has been lovingly prepared by hand, using family recipes passed down from generation to generation, each dish crafted from the best ingredients – no packages or cans. It can be even more special when someone is sharing their culture with you through their food.
Walking into Mehtab Restaurant, you’ll feel homely touches right away. There’s a good chance you’ll be welcomed by Jag or Gunjeet, the community-minded husband and wife team that took over the restaurant in 2011. Colourful textiles called ’phulkari’, handmade and brought from India, cover the tables. The fragrant aromas of toasted, hand-ground spices are a teaser of what’s to arrive on your palette once you sit down to dine.
The secret at Mehtab is the amount of care that goes into the food. Over half of the menu features family recipes, many of them from North Punjabi region of India. Jag & Gunjeet order their spices whole, and create their own spice blends from hand. You won’t find any food colouring in the bright dishes either, the vibrant yellow colour comes from the super spice turmeric, and the rich red colour from kashmiri mirch – an Indian chili powder.
Of particular pride to the chefs is the traditional tandoor. If you were to peek in the kitchen, you’d see a cylindrical clay oven that heats to almost 300 degrees to create the perfect ‘soft on the inside, crisp and buttery on the outside’ naan bread. The naan is made fresh for each guest that orders it, so of course, it’s a must taste.
Mehtab offers a lunch buffet Sunday through Friday, Á Lá Carté (menu) daily evening dining. The varied menu has something for everyone – vegetarian, vegan, keto, gluten free, nut’s free, dairy free… even picky eaters. The rich, creamy, slightly sweet butter chicken is a favourite with the regulars, and there’s so much more to taste. Foodies who love to discover new flavours should try the salted lassi – a cousin of the better known sweet mango lassi. The savoury beverage features house-made yogurt, a touch of salt, and roasted cumin seeds.
An insider dining tip from owner Jag: “We created our very own Indian style lager with our friends at Minhas micro-brewery in Calgary. It pairs perfectly with our food”.
Now that we’ve let you in on Mehtab’s secret – carefully hand-crafted dishes made with family recipes and real ingredients, we’ll bet you can’t go just once!
Callandra Caufield – guest journalist
Jacquie Matechuk – photographer