"To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to the protection by man from the cruelty of man." Mohandas K. Gandhi, The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism
Gandhi, the father of India, the anti-colonial revolutionary who overthrew an empire and helped create the world’s largest democracy, was a vegetarian. When he was a young man, he struggled with his food choices, especially when he went to London to study law in 1888. After continuous soul-searching and no end of personal and cultural obstacles, he not only amazingly remained vegetarian in meat-heavy Victorian England, but went on to play a prominent role in The Vegetarian Society in London, and became an ardent vegetarian spokesman until his death in 1948. Aside from the above quotation, he also stated, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Had the owners of Gandhi Mahal Restaurant cared to read Gandhi's autobiography, which the restaurant displays prominently when you walk through the front door, they might not have chosen to use his name and visage for their establishment.
Had the owners cared to read Gandhi’s treatise, The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism, they might not have chosen to serve meat, and to use his familiar, smiling face to brand their business.
If the owners had any respect for Hindus, Jains and Indian Buddhists, they would not have chosen to serve meat, and especially not beef, in their restaurant.
Then, appallingly, the restaurant has the sheer disrespect and gall to state on their menu that they are “dedicated to the principles that Mahatma Gandhi advocated in his lifetime. Gandhi lived a life of satyagraha, peace, voluntary simplicity, and an end to discrimination against people.”
Conveniently, they don’t mention his vegetarian principles, lest it conflict with their business model.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so appalled and angered by a restaurant in my entire life. For the record, I am Indian-American, and a vegan. Though I was born in the US, I have a deep admiration for Gandhi. And, while I prefer vegetarian Indian restaurants, I am not opposed to non-veg. Indian restaurants in principle. As such, I came to Gandhi Mahal with an open mind. I read all the previous reviews on Yelp and VegGuide.org which spoke highly of the food and of the service.
But I found the food to be passable at best, with nothing special going for it. We couldn’t order some dishes because they could not be modified to exclude dairy products (ghee/butter/cream/yogurt are commonly used in North Indian cooking), which I found questionable, as I’ve lived in India and know you can make any dish vegan if you have a good, creative chef (which Gandhi Mahal does not have).
So, after asking a lot of questions about ingredients, we ended up with two dishes and an appetizer. Our “eggplant pakora” appetizer was decent, but nothing I’ll remember tomorrow. Our “Alu Begun” (potatoes and eggplant) curry was okay, but used bland, industrial-grade vegetables bought from any generic supermarket. The “Vegetable Kahari” suffered from the same issue and had strange spices that tasted wrong somehow. The main dishes were both oily and heavy, which I’ve come to expect at North Indian restaurants in the US, but is disappointing and tiresome nevertheless.
The service was all over the place. We seemed to have three different waiters, all of whom were friendly, but not particularly attentive. The service wasn’t fast by any means nor was it special. At the end of the meal, they gave each of us a gigantic wet paper napkin to clean our hands, which was wasteful not only because of the paper material, but also the sheer size of the napkin, which was more like a hand towel. In a traditional Indian restaurant, you would be served a finger-bowl with lukewarm lemon water, not an environmentally-destructive piece of paper. At least they could have given us something made of cloth instead?
If you’re looking for good Indian food, go to The Vegetarian or Nala Pak instead, both of which label their vegan dishes. If you’re looking for fresh, light, innovative and Indian-esque food, check out the wonderful Nepalese restaurants, The Himalayan or Namaste Café (both of which serve meat, but have excellent vegan food as well).
Gandhi Mahal not only spits on the memory and philosophy of India’s first and foremost citizen, and one of humanity’s great spiritual and political leaders, but it serves mediocre food to boot.