Taj Indian Cuisine

Taj Indian Cuisine in Ashland opened recently in the same place formerly occupied by Deep's Indian restaurant. The restaurant now has new owners and seems to be attracting diners.

The night my wife and I and a friend went there for dinner, there were quite a few customers. Several large groups sat at tables that had been pushed together to accommodate them — always a good sign.

The owners have created a pleasant ambiance. The light plum-colored walls, delicate curtains and paintings depicting scenes from Indian stories created the perfect dining atmosphere.

Our waitress was very friendly and took our orders right away after we had settled on our choices. In addition to appetizers, soups and salads, the menu lists vegetarian entrees, as well as those featuring chicken, lamb, seafood and tandoori.

Various breads and side orders are available. Beverages include a variety of soft drinks, fruit drinks, tea and coffee as well as domestic and imported beers.

While we waited, we refilled our glasses from the big carafe of lemon water that sat on our table, much to the delight of my thirsty companions.

The Indian spicy tea, which I ordered and which I assumed was the house version of chai, was neither too spicy nor too sweet.

We were served a basket of crisp papadum and a selection of three condiments that included sweet tamarind and two other sauces that were hotter in flavor. For an appetizer we tried the vegetable samosa, two large patties stuffed with potatoes, green peas and light spices for $3.95. It turned out to be slightly spicy but not hot. It was very tasty.

My wife ordered the vegetable korma, mixed vegetables cooked with mild cream sauce and sprinkled with cashews and raisins for $10.95.

Our friend ordered the seekh kabab, which is minced lamb seasoned with mild spices, cooked in tandoor and served on hot plate for $14.95.

According to the menu, a tandoor is a traditional pitcher-shaped clay oven used to cook meat and bread in ancient India. The meat is marinated in a special spiced yoghurt with lemon juice, fresh ground herbs and spices. It is then cooked in the custom-made imported tandoor oven and served on a hot plate.

I couldn't decide between the baingan bhartha, a classic eggplant dish sauteed with onions and tomatoes for $9.95 and palak paneer, spinach cooked with homemade cheese cubes for $9.95. Our waitress said that both dishes were very popular. I wanted to try the homemade cheese so I opted for the palak paneer.

We also asked for a basket of nan, white-flour bread baked in tandoor for $2.75. We chose plain rather than garlic or onion.

Several friendly waiters brought our meals, served in lovely covered metal serving bowls. We all found the vegetables to be fresh and crisp. The waiters kept the table cleared whenever we finished a dish. They also refilled my cup of tea. The food was generally very mild with only hints of the spices that were in each dish. We wished that some of the selections were more flavorful.

For dessert we had one of each of the two choices on the menu. One was gulab jamun, homemade cheese soaked in syrup and rose water and kheer. The other was rice pudding served chilled with almonds and pistachios. Each dessert was $2.95. They were both refreshing and not too sweet. The gulab was served warm and we all liked the flavor.

Taj serves a lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday for $8.95.

— Richard Moeschl

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