Well, what a nice thing to have happen to a Krystal burger shop. It’s been turned into a pleasant little Indian restaurant. Oh, don’t worry, not every Krystal burgerie is going Indian, just this particular one on Semoran Boulevard between University Boulevard and Aloma Avenue.
That’s where you’ll now find Moghul Indian Cuisine. On the outside, it still pretty much looks like a basic Krystal, but inside you have to look really close to see and signs that it was once a fast food purveyor. Instead, there is carpeting, low lighting, and tables and booths with burgundy tablecloths and cloth napkins. (There are paper napkins, too, for some reason.)
The word Moghul refers to a member of the Muslim dynasty from Mongol that ruled India until the 19th century. Mughlai cuisine influenced much of what we recognize as typical in most Indian restaurants in America, so you probably won’t see much that will be unfamiliar.
Kofta is a typical Muglai dish, and the malai kofta was the best item I sampled at Moghul. Kofta are, simply, meatballs, but this was a vegetarian dish with meatless balls fashioned out of paneer, a housemade cheese. The meatballs, deceptively described on the menu as croquettes, had a firm but giving texture, and the creamy sauce, flavored with cumin, coriander and garma masala, was multilayered with flavors. It was good with the basmati rice but even better with the paneer naan.
Lamb rogan josh featured hefty hunks of meat (yes, it was lamb and not goat -- see my review of India Kitchen for an explanation) in a sauce that must have had dozens of spices, all exploding in the mouth with each bite. The gravy was thick and tempered with yogurt and tomatoes.
The mixed pakora featured vegetable fritters in a chickpea batter, deftly deep-fried to a perfect crispiness. The seasoning in the batter had wonderful peppery notes. I enjoyed the pakora with the holy trinity of chutneys -- onion, mint and tamarind -- served with the complimentary pappadum wafers.
One operational detraction: Moghul employs the annoying habit of asking “mild, medium or hot” for each dish ordered, with no regard to how the dish should traditionally be prepared. Even if you ask the server if the dish is traditionally mild or if it should be spicy you’ll be told that it’s up to your preference. Well, it’s not. Some dishes should be mild, some dishes should be spicy and that’s how they should be presented. If the guest wants the kitchen to make a spice adjustment, that’s fine, but give the diner at least the option. Ordering the food "medium" resulted in fairly spicy food, so that paper napkin came in handy for mopping my brow.
That said, the service otherwise was lovely, and several people thanked us as we were leaving.
Moghul is at 401 N. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday (the lunch menu ends at 3 p.m.). This link will take you to the Moghul Indian Cuisine Web site. The phone number is 407-599-9001.