"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taj Mahal - December 29, 2010

Blessed with a stomach made of stainless steel – well, in this age and era, probably some kind of polysyllable polycarbonate something, I never have to worry whether I should take the offered spoonful of fishcake curry at a pier in Bangkok from a toothless, but for a few, old man with a grin; or whether I should sit on a low stool crouching over a bowl of rice crepes with fermented shrimp sauce, which appeared mildly gaseous (a couple of policemen were shaking their heads and giving us a few sideway glances while one of them appeared to chastise the matron for the gaseous shrimp paste – not very encouraging). I have never had a problem when the issue is pure sanitation: They are biodegradable and, perhaps, organic, too. Nonetheless, even such a strong stomach has its limits: Pollution and bad oil – the former tested in China and the latter in the Indian restaurants in New York. Despite the general intolerance toward Indian food, I was drawn into this restaurant because of the aroma emanating over the sidewalk one afternoon (and also because the original destination was closed for no discernible reason).


Although described as “a delicious lentil soup with tomatoes, lemons, herbs and mild Indian spices,” spicy tomato soup would have been my description, minus “delicious.” The pickled hot onions added much needed relish to the soup.


The cracker was crisp and mildly and pleasurably spicy. The condiments of the green and tamarind sauces were flavorful and fragrant.


The samosa was the standard fried pyramid of potatoes and vegetables, while the banana pakora was a scantily stuffed – one slice of banana – chewy donut. In my limited experience, samosa has always mysteriously tasted the same. I wonder if samosas in India are different. Take the horrid “egg roll” at Chinese restaurants: Although they are ubiquitously unauthentic and unexceptionally bad in the U.S., the real “spring roll” (this is the literal and correct translation of Chinese – where the “egg” came from, I have no idea) does require a careful selection of stuffing and expertise with the frying. Therefore, the true potential of samosa is yet to be seen.


Naan was disappointingly hard and flat, instead of being doughy and chewy. On the other hand, the rice was adequately light and subtly flavored.


This was the best saag paneer I had in a while – light and creamy. The most admirable characteristic of Taj Mahal’s curries was that there was no trace of the abominable accumulation of oil as the curries cooled down. The lack of rancid oil did not needlessly stimulate my stomach, which meant that I could continue my journey down to Chinatown after the meal, instead of hailing a cab to go home. The chopped spinach was texturally preferable to the creamed, especially with the abundance of rectangular chunks of cheese.


The vegetables were fresh – I have had frozen vegetables at Indian restaurants with the tell-tale taste of plastic and wedges on the carrots. However, the heavy coconut-based sauce was overly sweet without any counterbalance for a little respite.

Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant
Address: 318 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10003
Phone:  (212) 529-2217

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