Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Comfort food, Indian style, at the Taj Mahal Restaurant

outside of Taj Mahal Indian restaurant in Suitland Maryland When the weather's up and down (especially on chillier days), I can get a hankerin' for Indian food (aka, the other soul food), as it's tasty, spicy, fatty, nutritious, and starchy. In other words, it hits all the comfort zones.

Even more comforting is that the above establishment, Taj Mahal Restaurant, has a weekday lunch buffet of $8.95. Its unpretentious exterior is appropriate for the neighborhood, as it's on a street with lots of small, semi-industrial businesses, but is a close drive from the Smithsonian "attic" and the Census Bureau. You see lots of these employees come in for the buffet, so it's good to get there early, before noon, before the rush is on. The interior has a number of tables, and a casual, colorful vibe. Often, the large screen tv has some Bollywood musical or soap opera running.

inside of the Taj Mahal restaurant in Suitland

Buffet area before the lunch stampede.

I've been there a few times, twice for the buffet, once to get an entree. Always, the service is friendly and fast. Even buffet attendees get a basket of warm naan sent to the table. On warmer days, the mango lassi is a nice accompaniment to the food; on cooler days, I ask for hot tea.

As to the food, it's tasty enough with a good selection, from the menu and at the buffet (which sometimes has an item or two that's not on the menu, such as goat vindoloo). I've enjoyed the begun bartha (eggplant with onions and peas, I think), samosas, and lentil soup from the menu. The menu has plenty of chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian entrees, with a special section for tandoori specials.

The buffet has many vegetarian options, and the others are mostly chicken dishes, including tandoor chicken (often, but not always). Buffet side mainstays include pappadum (yum!), basmati rice, vege pakoras (but I prefer the samosas), sauces like raita, tamarind, and mint, and typical desserts such as rice pudding (nothing to write home about; I heard there's chocolate cake served some days, but I haven't seen it). Then again, usually I'm too stuffed to even consider dessert when I'm done with lunch.

plate of vegetarian food at Taj MahalThis place doesn't stint on its ingredients--if the sign says an item is, say, an okra curry (a "dry" curry which I'd eat again), there's a ton of okra in it. The Channa saag is drowned in spinach as well as chickpeas. The only vegetable dish that failed to impress was the navratian korma, as it wasn't as chockful of goodies as the other vegetarian dishes (and the sauce seemed blander, although none of them are scorching hot).

All in all, it's a good option in an area that doesn't have many sit-down establishments. (And does a brisk delivery business for those in that area.) As the Governator would say, I'll be back.

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