Saturday, December 21, 2013

Taj: Nashville Gets a Second Indian Restaurant Worth Returning To (especially for meat eaters)

     It's long been a gripe of mine and a number of others' that what was said to be the best Indian cuisine in town was at Woodlands, a vegetarian restaurant located inside a tower near I440. For my vegan friends, I'm happy for them that they got to have something to themselves, for a little while.

    The rest of us, our problem? The typical Nashville experience is to be served with an entree swimming in curry soup.
    I was a happy enough camper to find Bombay Palace on West End. It was the first place in Nashville where I found something that began to approach the quality of ingredients and preparation of what I'd been treated to in the UK.

All photos: ©2013 Mary Brace all rights reserved
                  Meanwhile, Nolensville Road's reputation for ethnic food  was sealed somewhere back in the late 1990s when its Mexican immigrants' culinary contributions were joined by Ethiopians and Thai. As Turkish and Middle East got added to the mix, more of Nashville's adventurous eaters flocked over. Most of what's available is street-food quality, but it's very good street food. The high end, though, has been lacking.

   It looks like, with the opening of Taj sometime in the middle of 2013, two birds have been hit and now can wind up on your dinner plate. Walking in, I was bowled over by the scent of spices in the air and could tell I was going to be in good hands.

    It was a weekday afternoon and I bypassed the buffet to order off the menu. What came out as the equivalent to chips and salsa were papadums and condiments; pickled onions, a yogurt sauce, and a hot pepper sauce. The second of the three, the green stuff in the top photo, didn't do very much for me, as I like it very spicy.

     My appetizer was Khasta Kachoti, a puff-pastry filled with unidentified spices and fruity things, and it was delightful. Joining it shortly after was Coconut Soup, and that was the only soupy thing I saw the whole meal. Both were fabulously light, neither were overpowering, and heat wasn't a factor.

     Where the heat did come into play was my entree, Hariyali Chicken. This is one that comes in a thick, yogurt-based curry sauce and I was asked at the time of ordering, how hot did I want it? (Answer: hot.)

    And it was hot, but not so much as the typical Nashville Hot Chicken dish. The poultry was about as tender as any you could find west of Franklin Road (which is another way of saying, most of the meat you're going to find in the Southeast quadrant of town is cooked in such a way to compensate the lack of freshness/quality). Rice, non-remarkable, garlic naan, colorful.

    Final take: it's not a surprise that a tasty new ethnic restaurant opened on Nolensville Road. But that it's Indian cuisine of this caliber, ought to make East and West Nashville both very, very jealous.

Taj Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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