Published in Mizzima Weekly on 18 June 2015
Once upon a time not so long ago, Yangonites looking to satisfy a craving for authentic Indian cuisine in pleasant surrounds had but one option. And while the Coriander Leaf certainly remains a very good option, the recent opening of four new fine dining Indian restaurants – The Taj, Tadka, Bawarchi and India Kitchen, gives reason to rejoice. As they say, variety is the spice of life.
Like two of the other new Indian kids on the block, The Taj sports a cute Hindi-styled font signboard above its entrance. It caught my eye as I whizzed past Aung San Stadium one afternoon, and has no doubt succeeded in catching the attention of others who are always on the lookout for a great Indian eatery.
Based on the rave reviews we’d heard from friends – among them a Bangladeshi who swore that The Taj’s biryani is the best in town – and the fact that it was a Saturday evening, we made sure to book a table to avoid either being turned away or shunted into a pokey corner.
Although our table was presented no less beautifully than any other, it was nonetheless a back corner in which we were seated, in what was clearly the section designated for couples located towards the rear of the ground floor. Of course there’s nothing at all wrong with such an arrangement, but the gap between the row of four tables was awkwardly negligible. The couple to our right must have shared some of our shyness at being so close because within five minutes they’d switched from speaking in heavily American accented English to Burmese. Things were so tight, in fact, that when the gentleman next to me later got up from his seat to leave the premises with his date, his bottom inadvertently brushed our plate of naan as he strode past. Another downside was that the tables were unusually long (though not wide) so I had to strain my ears to hear my husband over music that echoed from above.
I was much more enamoured by the design and layout of the more brightly lit upstairs area (which I discovered during a trip to the lavatory) but was informed that it is reserved for parties of five or more.
The Taj’s staff were attentive, equipped with touch-pads and kitted out in red tunics with a black sash around their waists – they reminded me a little of Santa’s elves as they scampered from diner to diner.
The food arrived promptly and the pakoras (K3,500) and accompanying sauces were an absolute delight, with top marks for presentation. However the palak paneer was simply too rich to finish and the butter chicken (K5,500) was confusing because it deviated so far from the classic dish that I know and love. It contained not chunks but threads of chicken so thin that it took on the texture of grated carrot. The murgh vindaloo (K5,500) was surprisingly devoid of spice, which meant that the tastiest dish of the night was the oh-so-tender mutton rogan josh (K6,500). We took home the mutton biryani (K7,000) as a parcel and whilst my palate isn’t discerning enough to separate the good biryanis from the great, my husband’s certainly can: he ranked it somewhere in between.
The Taj offers regular lunchtime promos such as complimentary Lavazza coffee, while its dine-in weekday vegetarian thalis are reasonably priced at K4,500 and K7,000 for non-vegetarian. Naturally, it’s cheaper to have the food delivered or collected (prices are K3,000 and K5,000 respectively), although a minimum order of 10 boxes is necessary. The Taj also offers an express menu for those who are strapped for time.
Our bill came to almost K50,000 – which seemed a little pricey considering we’d not ordered any alcoholic beverages (the reason being that none are served). Overall however, it was a pleasant dining experience, with the only caveat being the need to ease up on the ghee and consider tweaking parts of the floor plan.
The Taj is open from 11.30am until 10.30pm and is located on B-9, Aung San Stadium, North Stand, Upper Pansodan Road, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township.
Phone 09972662518 or 09252451353 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, visit The Taj’s Facebook page
Footnote: My favourite of the five Indian restaurants is India Kitchen, which I also think is the best value for money (and pssst – beer is available if you sit upstairs, though sometimes you’ll be told that it’s full, which may or may not be true!).
Do you have a different fave Indian restaurant? Please go ahead and leave a comment below 🙂