Sometimes you visit a restaurant for the first time and you not only enjoy a wonderful meal, but become an instant fan of a passionate, talented chef. Marigold Maison is such a place. It's a casual spot decorated with colorful globe lanterns. pretty murals, and an open kitchen centerpiece.
As we settled in, I started with nimbu pani, a refreshing lime-lemonade sweetened with ginger-cardamon syrup, while my husband opted for Kingfisher, one of India's most popular lagers. I later chose a bright rosé to pair with my meal.
We snacked on a basket of assorted pappadum (crunchy wafers made with lentil, rice, or chickpea flour and seasoned with black pepper and cumin) accompanied by mint chutney, yogurt raita, tangy tamarind and spicy vindaloo.
Executive Chef Sunil Kumar welcomed us and kindly spent some time describing his menu. We received a geographical education as he pointed out regional dishes such as korma from the north, vindaloo from Goa in western India, and idly and dosa from the south. The broad range of dishes at Marigold Maison reflect Chef Kumar's background growing up in India. "My dad was in the military so we lived every three years in different states and I had all these memories," he told us. "Before we created this menu, I traveled all over India from north to south - Hyderabad, Bombay, Delhi - refreshing those memories and traditional cooking styles."
Our culinary journey started with flaky samosas stuffed with peas, potatoes, and dried mango spiced with coriander and cumin.
I slso loved the seared nine-spice tofu with their glazed, crispy crust and creamy interior.
Chicken tikka brought juicy chunks of smoky, charred chicken steeped in a ginger and garlic-laced yogurt marinade before being cooked in the tandoor.
I can see why gol guppa is a common Indian street food. It's a fun and delicious snack of wheat puffs meant to be eaten in one bite. Poke a hole, stuff with the potato and chickpea mixture, and drizzle with spiced tamarind water before popping each one into your mouth.
Be sure to ask about the fish of the day, especially if it is thick and silky filets of aromatic, spiced salmon tandoori.
Masala dosa was another favorite. These delicate stuffed crepes look deceptively simple, but to create the perfect light and crispy texture, Chef Kumar soaks the rice and the lentils for eight hours, before rinsing, blending, and fermenting for another six. Rolled around a potato and onion mixture, they were served with traditional sambhar sauce and cocout chutney.
It was hard to leave room for the main event, but we were happy we did as these beautiful platters were set before us. One vegetarian, and one with meat, chicken, and seafood, each plate was filled with complex, multi-layered curries, aachar (spicy pickles), raita, chutney, basmati rice, and roti.
The grand finale was a platter showcasing India's desserts: Gajar ka halva, a Punjabi dessert made with carrots, milk, and cheese, rasmalai, an Indian cheesecake soaked in milk, cardamom, and cloves, mango kulfi with cashews and cardamom, kala jamun, rose water and honey-soaked cakes, and wheat puffs stuffed with kheer (rice pudding).
It would be hard to pick favorites - there is nothing at Marigold Maison I wouldn't order again. Chef Kumar shared that his personal favorites include chicken tikka masala, saag paneeer, chicken tikka and garlic naan.
A special treat was having a chance to join Chef Kumar in the kitchen as he described his Punjabi bharta (roasted eggplant), samosas and naan.
Marigold Maison is located at 4720 E Cactus Rd. in Paradise Valley, AZ 85032 with lunch and dinner hours.
If you're planning a visit, don't hesitate! They'll be closed for renovations next week from September 13 through the 20th as they expand next door, re-opening on September 21st. They will be adding 64 additional seats, a private dining room that seats 24, an indoor/outdoor bar, and an updated menu (look for new Chef Kumar creations such as coriander-crusted scallops with tomato chutney).
I recieved a media invitation and my dinner was complimentary.