Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Taj India

Taj India
7677 Mall Road
Florence, KY

Someone asked me why I haven’t reviewed any Indian restaurants, and the simple answer is that Indian cuisine is so synonymous with vegetarianism that it seemed unnecessary to even mention them.

There are two major culinary styles - the northern style emphasizes dairy; the south highlights rice, stew and pickle dishes. Those new to Indian cuisine can ease their way into this wonderful world by checking out an Indian lunch buffet, which highlights some of the more popular dishes. Quite a few places around town offer them and there are always several vegetarian options to choose from.

We were in Florence recently and swung by Apna on Connector Drive for a quick bite, only to discover that they have closed, so we tried our luck at Taj India a couple blocks up the road. We hadn’t visited Taj India in quite a while (we stopped going there when Apna opened), but things haven’t changed – the service is still excruciatingly slow, the décor as colorful as a glass of water, and the floor still looked as though it could use a good cleaning. I could excuse all of that if the food was good, but it was a disappointing experience all the way round.

Indian cuisine has a complex depth of flavor and isn’t supposed to be “all about the heat,” but you’d never know that if Taj India was your only reference point. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I love a dish that makes flames shoot from my mouth, but not at the expense of the rest of the ingredients. It’s a delicate balance, and one which Taj India doesn’t do very well.

I tried the mater paneer - cottage cheese cubes and peas in a spiced tomato sauce. It traditionally has a base of tumeric, asafoetida, cumin and chili browned in oil and combined with tomato, ginger, garlic and coriander. The heat level ranges from 1-5 and I requested a three. The level was fine but the balance was way off - all I could taste was the chili, which overwhelmed this usually delicious dish. I probably would have been better off ordering a level 0 and asking for a side of hot onion chutney to liven things up instead.

My husband’s non-veg lamb makhni fared no better. Makhni’s have a buttery, tomato base with a hint of yogurt/cream and garam masala (a mild but pungent spice mix), and those who shy from spicy-hot dishes – like my husband - tend to stick with yogurt or cream-based makhnis and kormas. He was surprised and dismayed that the restaurant skimped on the lamb – there were only a few small chunks swimming in a sea of gravy. It was also too spicy to enjoy. To deaden the heat he could have ordered a side of raita (a yogurt/cucumber sauce) but since we already felt we weren’t getting our money’s worth we were loathe to add to the bill. Most of his dish was left untouched, a $12 loss for us.

Although we went away disappointed, Taj India offers an inexpensive lunch buffet which we hear is much better and less fiery than what we experienced as evening diners, and might be a better option for next time. If there is a next time.
Taj India on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I've tried to give Taj India a few chances and it always disappoints.

Veggie Option said...

What was it that disappointed you? Was it the food, service, a combination of the two or something else?

liberal foodie said...

Baba India in Hyde Park has good buffet. New Krishna in Sharonville (I think that's the area) is also good. For you, a vegetarian, your best bet is Amma's kitchen on Reading Road. They do excellent lunch buffets with dosas, idlis, and variety of south indian dals and curries. (if the dosa is not on the buffet line, you have to request it).

Anonymous said...

Yeah Even I tried Taj India few times expecting that the quality will be improved but very disappointed. And last two times, the food was spoiled. I tried Kheer (dessert made with Milk and rice) and after the first spoon I felt like vomiting. The other time it was the same story with Custard. Probably they dont know how to cook. Each and everything is so bad you cant even eat one bite of it. Its not worth even if its free. The ambiance is again awful, dirty, gloomy and very very old. And they dont know about customer care. When I was eating my dinner, one lady from management was talking over phone sitting on one of the benches and keeping her dirty shoes on the table. I will never go there and will try my best to stop others to go there. The worse Indian Restaurant I have ever seen...

Veggie Option said...

Thanks for the update Anon. I'm honestly surprised that the restaurant is still in business.