My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau, Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is in the midst of an Indian cuisine wave, and the recently opened Ma Pau is riding this wave alongside other restaurants like Captain Curry and Dosa Bar. More street-food eatery than a restaurant, this family business was opened next to Meir Adoni’s Catit and Mizlala, at the corner of Nahalat Binyamin and Ahad Ha’Am. Its three founders decided to open following their mother’s death, as a way to honor her cooking – hence the name, which literally translates as “mother’s bread”.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

I tend to avoid restaurants during their run-in period, because they’re usually packed with people and the service and kitchen are still learning how to co-exist. I much prefer eating at a place once it has found its rhythm. I made an exception in this case for no particular reason, a choice which I probably won’t make again.

We tried to call and reserve a table but Ma Pau do not take reservations yet. We got there before their official opening time, at 19:00, and waited outside. As time went by more and more people joined us on the street to wait. They didn’t open on time, which got some people puzzled and upset. When one of the waiting patrons popped in to asked when are they going to open, a staff member yelled at him “I said it will take us 10 more minutes!” . This was untrue though, as we waited outside since 18:50 and no one from the restaurant bothered to tell us anything about their plan to open late. Ma Pau definitely get some points off for negative vibes, and upsetting their customers ever before stepping a foot inside the restaurant.

The place isn’t large, with a few tables inside, a few outside and several seats on the bar. The space also includes a projector that plays Indian video clips. On one hand this is a nice touch which adds to the atmosphere, but on the other the loud volume makes it harder to hold a conversation.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

Their menu is divided into three sections: Chat & More – “Crunchy appetizers filled and spiced with mild heat, served with different flavored chutney”, Chapati / Pau – “A meal rolled in pastry / A meal in a Mumbai style bun”, and Curry – “Thali, Tandoor and Curry” (Recursive much?). Since we felt like sharing dishes, we went for an item from the Capatti section and two items from the Curry section:

Ragda (22₪/$6) – Chickpea casserole in a tomato sauce, yogurt, coriander and freshly diced onion.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

Tikka Masala (42₪/$11) – Chunks of breast chicken in a butter and tomato sauce.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

Palak Paneer (35₪/$9) – Paneer cheese balls dipped in spinach stew, seasoned lightly.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

Unfortunately, the three dishes were served with Chapati (and not with rice). Our waitress failed to mention that there’s a choice between the two.

All three dishes were tasty and spiced mildly which well suited my heat-sensitive palate. The sauces were pleasing and we enjoyed dabbing the last bits of the sauce with the Chapati. Too bad the last dish served was the Palak Paneer, since that one had the mildest flavors.

After scarfing down the three dishes we were still a bit hungry, and felt in the mood for something with rice. We asked the waitress for something with rice and she recommended Malai Kofta (39₪/$10), which we went for. A few minutes later we received a pan with three balls. Halfway through the dish we realized they contained no rice. The balls are basically Paneer cheese rolled in potato with dry fruit sauce with “himalayan fragrance”. The dish was nice, but I didn’t care much for the dried fruit pieces inside the balls. This was the weakest of the four we ordered.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

Ma Pau serves desserts but we opted for two glasses of Lassi (16₪/$4) – yogurt-based banana flavored drink. The drink wasn’t overly sweet and a bit sour, which ended the meal on a positive note.

Om Nom Nomad - My riceless Indian experience | Ma Pau

Even though Ma Pau are in their run-in period, they offer no discount to counter the disorganized service. This is embodied in the wait for a table, dishes that are quite delayed and non personal experience. Be mindful that if you do wish to visit, unless you arrive when they open you’ll have to wait quite a bit outside to be seated. While I feel intrigued about tasting their other dishes (and maybe even succeed in getting rice next time), I feel as if it’ll be best until the end of their run-in period. Hopefully by then they’ll resolve all their service problems.


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