As unhealthy as COVID-19 has been to eating places typically, it might have been even worse for these providing buffets.

Instantly, the communal expertise of standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow diners and sharing utensils over open containers of meals took on the looks of a superspreader occasion.

So does this much-loved eating custom have a future within the post-pandemic world?

Apparently sure, judging by the scene at Taj Mahal, the longtime Indian restaurant on Carlisle.


Throughout a current lunch hour, a dozen or so diners crowded across the two buffet stations, spooning out curries and trapping fiery pink chunks of tandoori rooster in tongs.

The small eating room was virtually full. On the entrance to the kitchen, a crew of street employees carrying reflective vests picked up takeout orders.

The scene was a testomony to Taj Mahal’s enduring recognition. Even after 15 years, Taj Mahal continues to attract diners to its dwelling, a faintly pink constructing lined with mock columns close to the Carlisle-Indian Faculty intersection.

Taj Mahal makes a speciality of Punjabi delicacies, from the northern a part of India. Punjab was the place the Indian custom of cooking in a clay oven generally known as a tandoor began. A great distance from the Indian Ocean, the area is thought for dairy- and rice-based dishes reminiscent of saag paneer and biryani.

Taj Mahal’s menu cuts a fairly huge swath, with subsections dedicated to rooster, seafood and vegetarian dishes. Costs are in keeping with different Indian eating places on the town. The menu gadgets are listed in Hindi, so should you’re in search of butter rooster, don’t hassle; on Taj Mahal’s menu, it’s known as murg tikka makhani.

Among the many greater than a dozen appetizers, most coming in at below $5, is dahi bhalla ($3.95), a well-liked avenue meals of northern India. Within the takeout container, it appears like an enormous serving of plain yogurt, however below the floor lurk deep-fried lentil desserts that crumble simply, including some texture to the combo of spices and chutney that register briefly as candy earlier than an attractive burn units in.

Jehangiri Kofta, minced lamb meatballs in a creamy curry sauce. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Equally, an entree of jehangiri kofta ($16.95) appears uninspiring at first sight, only a cup of putty-colored curry and cream sauce. Dig deeper, nonetheless, and also you’ll discover a number of minced lamb meatballs full of cashews and raisins. The meatballs had not one of the gaminess generally present in lamb and their fairly leaden consistency was reduce by the candy and savory sauce.

Murg Sagwalla, boneless items of tandoori rooster in a spinach and curry sauce. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Taj Mahal affords quite a lot of rooster specialties like murg saagwala ($15.95), boneless chunks of tandoori rooster nestled in a creamy curry sauce laden with spinach. The rooster was moist, and the sauce successfully tamped down the acidity of the spinach.

Baigan Bhurta is Taj Mahal’s model of a well-liked Indian vegetarian dish made with baked, mashed eggplant. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

A spotlight of the vegetarian entrees, baigan bhurta ($12.95) is constructed from eggplant baked, mashed and sauteed with onions, peas and tomatoes. It was served in a wealthy yellow curry sauce aromatic with garlic and ginger, and the peas nonetheless had some snap to them.

Garlic naan is considered one of a number of sorts of bread accessible at Taj Mahal. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Two massive items of garlic naan ($3.50) had been an excellent complement to the entrees, leopard-spotted from the oven and simply agency sufficient to scoop up the curry sauces. The order additionally got here with a complimentary papadum, paper-thin lentil crackers that carried somewhat bit of warmth.

Am Ka Kamaal, a dessert made with mango puree and vanilla ice cream. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

The intriguing choice of desserts, all within the $5 neighborhood, embody rice pudding and mango custard. Aam ka kamaal ($5.50) was a standout, the tangy mango puree matching superbly with vanilla ice cream that had melted barely by the point we obtained to it. Sadly, the pistachios promised on the menu didn’t make it into the dish.

I ordered on-line, and the meals was prepared in 20 minutes. The order got here with three containers of basmati rice, greater than sufficient to pair with the entrees.

Virtually every part on the menu is gluten-free. There’s even a gluten-free different to the naan.

Taj Mahal’s longevity is a testomony to its consistency. It stands on the prime of Albuquerque’s Indian eating scene.

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