ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Indian food never had an easy time attracting New Orleans diners. The problem is a widely-held misapprehension: that all Indian dishes have what most Americans call “that curry flavor” and a high pepper level. In fact, self-respecting Indian restaurants grind and blend their own spices for each dish, and the pepper levels are all over the map. Really, it’s an easy cuisine to get to love. Indeed, it has been shown to be actually addictive.
The Taj Mahal has been around long enough now to pull a regular clientele together. While it’s not as good as the best Indian restaurants in London or New York, that fact doesn’t come to mind as you eat. Like most Indian restaurants the world over, lunch is a buffet. But that provides a fine meal at a low price, and even toward the end of the lunch period everything remains freshly made and tasty.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
In recent years the Taj Mahal has become a nicer-looking place with better food than it had in its early years. The menu is full of interesting new dishes, including a full page of the rarely-encountered southern Indian food and Goan cuisine.
The kitchen boasts a tandoor, the hot clay oven for roasting chicken, lamb, beef, sausage, and seafood. All of that is good, simple, low-fat eating, and an illustrative introduction to Indian food. They make something like forty kinds of curries, each with its own flavor. The best work is done in the lamb and vegetarian departments, but all of it is exciting eating. Like all Indian restaurants, there’s a buffet at lunch. The food stands up to that service method better than most, but it’s still better to order a la carte.
The Taj Mahal was the first Indian restaurant ever to open in New Orleans, in 1982. Anila Keswani and her late husband Har had a tough battle persuading Orleanians to try what in those days was a very exotic cuisine. They stuck with it, moving from one location to another and opening other restaurants (they also own Nirvana) along the way.
The restaurant is at the end of a driveway in an old, haphazardly renovated, utilitarian space. It’s decorated in an Indian style, but with none of the grandeur suggested by the name. The premises are less than fancy but clean and pleasant. The service staff is much improved during recent times, and shows a new eagerness to help diners who need advice on the menu.
FULL ONLINE MENU
»Seenk kebab (spicy lamb sausage)
»Biryanis (rice studded with various meats, seafoods, and vegetables)
»Chicken tikka masala (basic curry)
Navrattan curry (vegetarian)
»Saag lamb, chicken, or paneer cheese (with a spicy creamed spinach sauce)
»Chili paneer (very peppery dish of pepper and roasted cubes of fresh cheese)
»Lamb rogan josh (spicy lamb chops)
Foil chicken (with mushrooms, onions, and peppers)
»Halvo (carrot pudding)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Even though you have to pay extra for it, don’t fail to order some of the homemade breads, particularly the naan flatbread. Indian restaurants lend themselves to dish-sharing, as in Chinese restaurants. Remember that the place closes on Tuesdays.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Some tables are pushed wherever they fit; you might have to do some mild acrobatics to get into or out of a chair.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment -1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color -2
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open some holidays
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted