Like everyone, I tend to overlook the restaurants out there that have been around forever, imagining a tired menu and service worn thin by too many years of sameness.
So, when a restaurant in this category actually wins me over, I tend to springboard in the opposite direction and spread the good news like Scrooge on Christmas morning. All of which is to say that while I may have slogged through the door at Taj Mahal last night, I emerged transformed.
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Let us begin with Taj Mahal’s location as opposed to its internal ambiance: outside it’s a study in everything that stinks about strip-mall culture, but inside, what’s not to love? Think mini-chandeliers and bedazzled paintings of lounging maharajahs. Like outsider art, the paintings are kitschy without intending to be and provide plenty of distraction during the post-ordering doldrums.
I decided to hit all the basics by starting vegetarian with aloo chat and veggie samosas and working my way into lamb vindaloo, vegetarian curry, and naan. The chat caught me off-guard with its freshness and bright flavors. In truth, I could have made a meal of just samosas and chat. As for the rich and spicy vindaloo and veggie curry – let’s just say that I had to forcibly stop myself from finishing all of it (one must have a little left over for lunch the next day).
To be fair, the service had its bright spots but was a pretty uneven, like when our server excitedly suggested the organic beer on the menu but then forgot to bring it. That is, until a young woman (possibly a teenage daughter of the owner) arrived and appeared beside our table. I don’t know who she was — her job seemed to hover somewhere in the hostessing department — or what kind of good mojo she was emanating, but if the owners could find a way to spread her natural delightfulness around a little (and possibly lose the dark curtains), Taj Mahal could experience a serious second wind spurred on by strikingly good food and sunny vibes.