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Restaurant review: Taj Mahal one of Columbus’ Indian gems, but in small portions

The captivating curry, tantalizing tandoori and scrumptious samosas barely had a chance after they made it to my table.

Cleverly named after one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal restaurant serves up a refreshing change of pace from the typical fare that lines the campus area of High Street.

Just north of Lane Avenue, this Indian gem is nestled among surrounding houses at 2321 N. High St., where it blends right in. The restaurant thrives in what used to be a residential home. With a very similar layout to many campus area houses, Taj Mahal invites guests in with a warm, cozy atmosphere.

With faint sounds of a sitar, traditional Indian music plays quietly in the background to complement the vibrant hues of reds, oranges and purples that transform this Columbus house into a quaint celebration of the Indo-Persian culture. Candles lit throughout the establishment make guests feel right at home, and the fragrant smells of bold Indian spices and incense fill the air.

Upon walking through the door, my friend and I were greeted and led to our table immediately. Our server was very kind and attentive, though after walking around the restaurant later, I discovered we were the only guests there.

At any Indian restaurant I visit, I have to order the samosas. A crispy pastry shell filled with a blend of potatoes, peas and spices paired with two dipping sauces, they were a delight for only $4 and simply melted in my mouth.

Browsing through the menu and drooling over the brief descriptions of the food, I finally decided on the Chicken Tikka Masala, a tasty dish of white meat chicken sautéed with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and peppers, extra spicy as per my request. My friend ordered the Chicken Tikka Duo, a tandoori specialty with the white meat chicken prepared two different ways: one a cream and cashew paste called malai, and the other a traditional tandoori, a delicious marriage of yogurt and spices.

Steaming hot and accompanied by some of the most delicious basmati rice I’ve tasted in years, our food arrived at our table a short 10 minutes after ordering.

Included in my $15 Chicken Tikka Masala meal was basmati rice, and with the $17 Chicken Tikka Duo came the basmati rice, a house salad, a side of vegetable curry and Naan. We decided to substitute the Naan (at no extra cost), for the Tandoori Roti, a seasoned pita-like unleavened flatbread.

I thought the description for the portion size was a bit misleading. The house salad was a very small amount of lettuce with two slices of cucumber and one tiny slice of tomato, no dressing included. The side of vegetable curry, though absolutely delicious, was also very small. That didn’t keep us from walking out of Taj Mahal completely satisfied and almost too full though.

Most entrees are about $15 and soft drinks, and featured beverages such as lassi, a yogurt-based drink, and mango juice, range from about $2 to $3.

I was a little disappointed in the portion size in relation to the higher prices, but that didn’t change my satisfied opinion.

Also attached to the restaurant is Taj Bar and Lounge, open until 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It features nightly special events such as karaoke Fridays and live music Saturdays. There is no cover on any night.

Grade: B+

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