Indian cuisine has become my latest version of a Chinese takeout meal. It’s spicy, easy to share and something I’d never try to make myself. Taj India is my latest find for this new addiction, but I’m glad my friend and I decided to dine in recently. Otherwise we wouldn’t have experienced one of Taj India’s strong points: its excellent, friendly service.
Nestled into a storefront of a strip mall, Taj doesn’t offer much in the way of décor, but it’s bright and comfortable. It also has free Wifi, making it easy to spend an idle afternoon with your Google Reader or Flipboard while grazing on the $5.99 lunch buffet options.
Right now seating is a little tight, with only three tables, but Taj is expanding in the next month or so. The owner, D.J. Singh, said that once the expansion is complete they’ll be able to seat 65 people.
The menu is a familiar mix of curries, biryani, naan, chicken tandoori and all the other usual suspects. Singh, who also runs Shaan India in Hyde Park Plaza, said their most popular dishes are Chicken Tikka Masala ($9.99), broiled chicken in a buttery tomato and onion sauce, and Saag Paneer ($8.99), homemade cheese cubes in a sauce of spinach and cream.
We started with a plate full of Vegetable Pakora ($2.50) and two Keema Samosas ($3.25), pastries with spiced ground beef and peas. The pakora were very crisp and not overly oily, a feat other Indian places in the area aren’t always successful in doing.The fluorescent red onion chutney we slathered over the pakora was bold and spicy. My samosas reminded me of empanadas. The crust was flaky and pie-like, and the meat and peas went well with the green mint chutney.
For dinner I got my usual Indian restaurant order of Mixed Vegetables ($8.99) with Chicken Naan ($2.50). My friend ordered Dal Makhani ($8.99), a lentil dish made with butter and cream, and Lamb Curry ($10.99). The naan, like the samosa, reminded me of anything but a typical Indian pastry. It was almost biscuit-like: very light and flaky. On follow up Singh told me that their naan recipe is a little different than most other places, but he refrained from divulging any more detail.
The mixed vegetables were a little heavier on the cream than what I’ve gotten used to, and even though I ordered the same spice level as my friend (a “four” out of six) her meal was spicy and mine wasn’t. But what the dish lacked in spice it made up for in its variety of vegetables, which included potatoes, corn, cauliflower and broccoli along with the tofu.
My friend’s dal makhani was less creamy than at other local Indian joints, but she said that they had not been cooked to death like she’s had before and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy them as she mixed the makhani and lamb curry over her rice. She pronounced the lamb curry as delicious, noting that what made it better than some others was the large, generous, non-fatty pieces of lamb. It was moist and the sauce was the perfect thickness for her — not too thin or thick so that easily it coated and stuck to the rice.
Unable to wean myself off the urge to make a carry-out order, I got the Chicken Tikka ($10.99) for my husband. It was made with big, tender chunks of meat marinated in yogurt and baked in a Tandoori oven.
What Taj India lacks in décor it easily makes up for in both food and service. They were three-for-three on our entrees — overall, each of us made favorable comparisons to similar dishes we had eaten at other Indian establishments.
As for service, our server joked with my friend that her first words to him were “out” and “gone.” He wasn’t getting a positive vibe from those particular choices, but by the end of the evening we had cleared all that up and he offered to let us take our table home and bring it back with us each time we came so we would have our spot reserved. He even offered to carry it and to give my friend the leftover chutney, if she’d bring the container back the next time she visited.
Go: 7426 Beechmont Ave., Anderson Towne Center
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Sunday
Red Meal Alternatives: Vegetarian, chicken and seafood