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Taj Indian Restaurant

In a word: Agra culture on display.

The specs: #0645  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at The Mad Samplers, Yelp; chef profile at 77 Square; listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site, Taj Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Latest Taj Indian Restaurant news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate at the lunch buffet, and JM also had a lemonade.
The bill was $19, or $9.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Taj Indian Restaurant a B+; Nichole gave Taj Indian Restaurant an A- (see our grading rubric).

Taj follows the lunch buffet and dinner menu pattern so common to Madison, and draws a devoted following from Park St. neighborhood dwellers, St. Mary's staffers from the north, state workers from the south, and beyond. Rightly so: the buffet is a deal at $9 and included at least 18 hot dishes, 12 salad/relish items, and 6 desserts when we visited.

We were seated immediately and offered garlic or plain naan. We chose the garlic naan, which was waiting for us along with JM's lemonade when we returned with full plates. The garlic was mild, the bread very crisp on the edges and softer toward the middle.

Garlic naanWe tried the bhelpuri, a puffed rice snack with crunchy bits of slightly sweet sev and a little onion. The samosas (more like "sa'more, please") were substantial, and served halved, a nice adaptation for the grazing lunch crowd. A requisite iceberg salad with tomatoes and carrots was fine. The dhal was missable - this batch was flat, or more accurately, a good canvas for condiments if one's so inclined. Taj's lime pickle is fresh and hot, with lotus root for extra crunch. The cooling ratia was good for balance.

There was plain rice as well as a version with raisins, turmeric, almonds, and peas, both, of course, great for sopping sauce. JM tried the malai kofta, which he thought was bland for a meatball - then we looked it up and realized that "malai" indicated vegetables, not meat. (We have so much to learn.) Another vegetarian dish, mushrooms in a light tan, creamy sauce, was spicy and sweet. The saag was great.

Buffet plateBuffet plate 2

On the meat side, chunks of batter-fried fish were firm, flaky and permeated with a red color but not so very much flavor. A standby, tandoori chicken, was also red but not very flavorful or even quite warm.

We liked a mild yellow chicken curry better, though it was quite salty. Both chicken tikka and Taj's own recipe chicken tikka masala were on offer, and very good. (Our companions on a soon-to-be posted visit schooled us in the disputed history of CTM, purported to be a rather recent recipe of British origin because Brits prefer saucier meats.)

A beef dish, beef karahi, was new to us: the sweet, tomato-based sauce was rich and filling.

DessertThe dessert bar posted signs for besan, cham cham, carrot halwa, and mango ice cream, but other than the halwa and ice cream, Nichole couldn't tell what was what by the time she brought her mostly-orange bowl of sweets to the table.

There was something that looked like a boullion cube and tasted like flour, brown sugar and sesame. The halwa was good - not much sweeter than plain grated or chopped carrots would have been with maybe a little bit of honey. The mango ice cream had an excellent flavor but there were some ice crystals in it.

Taj is probably not our favorite Indian restaurant - those honors, so far, belong to Swagat and Maharani - but sometimes those places aren't close by, and Taj is, and that's when Taj is perfect.

Comments

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Ice crystals in the mango ice cream is normal, since it is made in house [same at all the Indian restaurants I have been too].

Overall, solid and worth visiting. Their mutter paneer and sag paneers are both great and vegetarian friendly. Their samosas are hearty, very deeply fried, and very tasty. The portions are generous, the food affordable, and people here are nice.

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