Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant

While growing up, my mother excelled at many things--particularly when it came to feeding a family of 7 on a meager budget. She was a master at stretching a dollar. It was only when it came to the use of spices in cooking that she lacked the know how or confidence to experiment. Except for when it came to my favorite childhood dish--Curry Tuna. A simple dish with a lovely marriage of 2 strong flavors. I can still remember that aroma wafting through the house. To this day, it's impossible for me to resist taking a deep breathe of the curry powder whenever I open the bottle for a recipe. During my childhood, curry aroma = joy. The smell of liver and onions = dread and sadness.

And today, that same feeling of joy comes over me when I open the door and walk into an Indian restaurant, like Salem's new Taj Mahal. It's difficult to tell which interior improvements are the new tenant's or from the "2 Doors Down" remodel several years back. I appreciate walking into an establishment that's well tended or redone. It gives me (a customer) the feeling that the owners have a sense of pride in their business.

N and I have visited twice, and since both experiences were good ones I'll try and include bits from both. The first time was 8 PM on a Saturday evening and the second at 6:45 PM on a Wednesday-- for dinner. We were warmly greeted by 3 pleasant young women and seated in a booth towards the back, across the dining area from a wall mounted television. As I leafed through to the last page of their menu, I noticed they offered a Thali dinner. Which offers a diner the opportunity to try several different (pre-assigned) Indian dishes, without having to order 3-4 different dishes. N decided to order the same thing, and added an order of Vegetable Samosas for an appetizer.


As you can see from the photo above, the 2 Vegetable Samosas were generous in size--nearly a meal unto themselves.  They were deep-fried with a crisp exterior and filled with an almost creamy, savory, combination of spices, potatoes and peas. During our second visit we opted to skip the appetizer so we could share 3 dishes without stretching the belts. We were treated to a saucer of the thinnest and lightest poppodums/pappads I've eaten. The somewhat large sheets were still warm with a slight sheen of hot oil glistening here and there. We broke off pieces and dipped into the delicious coriander and tamarind (?) chutneys until we had to tip the container for the last possible drop.

During our first visit, between the generous, tender wedges of fresh naan, the jasmine rice and the three just right servings of Dal Makhani, Lamb Korma and Chicken Tikka Masala, N and I were in Indian food heaven. The flavors and freshness we experienced at Taj Mahal tasted brighter and a bit more intense than dishes we've had at other area Indian restaurants. We specified medium heat in all of our dishes and it's exactly what we received.

When we returned, we shared Garlic Naan, Tandoori Mixed Grill, Aloo Gobi and Lamb Saag. Once again, we were very pleased with every delicious bite. Thank goodness for naan! It makes it acceptable to make a clean sweep of the plate after finishing with a fork. Also, while looking over their vegetarian entrees and eating the Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potato combination), I realized how easy it would be to enjoy a delicious Indian vegetarian spread. So many delicious sounding entrees!

I hope they create a "to go" menu to make it easier to call in and pick up a curry "to go". Please let us know if you've had a chance to try out their buffet. And the rest of you--if you haven't given them a try you're missing out.

(503) 990-8679
1220 State ST (right between Sassy Onion and Adam's Ribs)
Salem, OR 97301

15 comments:

Chuck Bradley said...

We have had their buffet. It's a good idea to arrive a bit early for lunch as about noon the place is becomes hutched with state workers. The buffet was fresh, well stocked and often replenished. I'd say it was every bit as good as any Indian buffet in Salem or Monmouth.

Anonymous said...

Everything I've tried there was pretty tasty!

Egan said...

It warms my heart to see a review of this place. One thing: they do have a "to go" menu - it's the green paper menu, and last times I've been I could just pick one up. I believe the prices are even a little cheaper on it. And as Chuck said, the buffet is delicious. Naan included, with two soups, a dessert, and the occasional (tasty) off-menu item.

Anonymous said...

I order the samosas to go all the time when I'm in a rush! I call Taj Mahal, I leave my house (or campus), and by the time I get there, they're ready and waiting for me! (5 minutes usually, 10 at most)

If you want to try vegetarian curries, I highly recommend the vegetable kofta with naan or the
vegetable korma with rice.

The service is wonderful, too. This is one of my favorite restaurants in town. I highly recommend it to everyone!

Also, their buffet is great, and they offer discounts to those with student IDs!

Okay, I guess I've gushed enough. Haha. Man, now I really want kofta...

The Mulligan Family said...

I've been four times for the lunch buffet. It's fantastic. I do not like the other Indian restaurants in town. There was one several years ago on S. Commercial that was fantastic - but it's long gone. Being raised with very good Indian friends - I feel I have a good judgement of delicious Indian food. Taj Mahal is fabulous. You are met by the glorious aroma of delicately spiced Indian food when you open the door. The meal is glorious and extremely well priced. I can't wait to go back again (was just there last Friday) and I definitely want to go for dinner one evening. Thank you Taj Mahal for satisfying my Indian food craving.

Anonymous said...

As vegetarians, we thought the buffet was subpar. It made us not want to try their regular menu. Right now, our favorite Indian restaurant in the mid-valley is the one in Monmouth. Their buffet is not vegetarian friendly, but we go for dinner. Their Thali dinner is great (except last time we went, there was something funky about the kheer). My wife though it was fine.

Egan said...

I'm sorry Anonymous thought the buffet was subpar. My girlfriend is vegetarian and loves the buffet. For vegetarians, the salad bar is open, there is one vegetarian soup, there are rice, papads, naan, and two curries (out of four curries total). That said, I get the impression that perhaps Anonymous isn't used to buffets, where food tends to sit out a little by necessity. Food cooked specifically and immediately for the customer is always better.

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous. Yes, ordering off the menu is always better.

I've eaten many Indian buffets in Corvallis, Portland, and Salem. On the day that we went, the vegetarian dishes on the buffet were not very good, not interesting, and they went for the cheapest kind of dish. It is what it is. As Mulligan Family commented, the Indian restaurant on S. Commercial was wonderful. Their buffet dishes tasted almost as good as ordering off the menu.

I wish Taj Mahal much success.

Anonymous said...

We went to Taj Mahal today for dinner and sorry to say, but their food was nothing special. We had ordered the mixed grill for $15 and what did we get...three big pieces of chicken which was dry, two pieces of shrimp and two bite sized pieces of lamb which were not any bigger then the shrimp. For $15 we were expecting a better assortment of meat, after all, it is called mixed grill. My lamb dish was also very dry and un-appetizing. We have tried quite a few restaurants here in Salem, as we like to adventure out and try new places. We have discovered really good places that way. This place however, will be one we won't be coming back to.

KandN said...

Anonymous, I know what you mean about not wanting to return to a place after a bad experience, but I do hope you'll take into consideration how new Taj Mahal is. I don't have any personal experience in opening a restaurant, but I've heard over and over again that it takes months to nail the details down. Wouldn't hurt to let them know how you feel either.

Rachel said...

We've been there twice since they opened. I think one reason folks are so generous with their reviews here is that there really isn't a good Indian restaurant in Salem. In other words, the bar is pretty low... and hence, now where to go, but up. I am a big Indian food fanatic and this place elicits a big "meh" from me. Also, I think that for the price, the portions are very skimpy. If the portions are going to be that small, they better be good.

KandN said...

Good news for Indian beer lovers. I overheard that Taj Mahal will be selling beer in a month or so.

Anonymous said...

They actually have a website now, for those interested:

http://www.tajmahalsalem.com/

Man, I want to go there and eat a samosa right now. Too bad that I'm out of town...

It's a shame that not everyone loves this restaurant as much as I do, although I know that tastes differ... It's one of my favorite restaurants in Salem. The food is good, I always bring home leftovers, and the people who work there are really nice...

Anonymous said...

I tried Taj for the first time last week, it was my first experience with Indian food ever, and it was..... AMAZING. I absolutely loved the chicken Makhani (I'm assuming that's "butter chicken"?), and a green chicken masala.. the lentil dahl was good, but I should have eaten it first since the other two were such a flavor explosion that it made the dahl seem bland in comparison. Then the naan.. oh em gee, the naan. LOL! I cannot wait to go back and try different things!! :)

Anonymous said...

ehh, this place is alright. Tried the lentil soup which I could tell was watered down a bit too much (trying to stay cost effective I assume w/o much emphasis on taste) and the tandoori which was a bit dry. We love Indian food but have not found a place worth raving about here in Salem. So far we have found Evergreen Indian restaurant in Corvallis to be the best one by far.