When it comes to Indian food, I generally live by two principles: 1. When choosing a “level of spiciness,” never go with my first inclination. 2. Never eat at the buffet.
Principle one stems from stupidly ordering curry hot enough to bring a professional linebacker to tears. The second comes from too many bad buffet experiences—food that simply could not live up to the freshness and quality you’d get by otherwise ordering off the regular menu. But, of course, the Indian buffet can be incredibly tempting. The variety, the bargain price, the ability to sample so many new dishes while still being able to enjoy your old favorites. It’s almost impossible to avoid forever.
I’d heard from a number of people that the buffet at Taj Mahal was worth checking out—including many of my Indian co-workers. Some Taj regulars even claimed that the buffet was as good or better than ordering off the menu. This intrigued me. Undoubtedly, for someone hoping to get a taste of everything an Indian place has to offer, the buffet is not a bad route to take. So it was, I found myself gorging myself at Taj’s buffet one fine Wednesday afternoon.
I was indeed impressed with the quality and variety of Taj Mahal’s buffet options. Sure, some items were lackluster, not warranting much attention at subsequent rounds at the buffet, but many items had me going back for seconds.
To begin with, their naan was excellent. The complimentary tandoori naan was soft, hot, steamy, and buttery—a fantastic start to the meal.
From the buffet, we enjoyed the chicken jalfrezi with a smothering of thickened curry, fried crisp in spiced oil. A favorite dish at the table was the green curried lamb meatballs with mint. These were soft and tender, with a robust lamb flavor. Equally delightful were the fried chickpea balls smothered in a cream sauce. The vegetable biryani—basmati rice with mixed vegetables—formed a wonderful backdrop for the many interesting spices dancing across the plate. And though I was nigh unto bursting out of my britches, at the end of our meal I could not pass up the opportunity to sample dessert. Most memorable was the mango kulfi—a creamy, smooth housemade Indian ice cream that offered just enough sweetness to satisfy without being overly heavy or rich.
I was rather disappointed with their tikka masala, however. If you’re going to screw up one dish at an Indian restaurant, you don’t want it to be the tikka masala. It was far too sweet for my tastes, almost lacking any spice whatsoever. I assume they keep it mild to appeal to a greater number of patrons, but this thin, runny chicken dish was not something I’d head back for.
The verdict? Try the buffet. It’s surprisingly good and can stand up to their menu items. And considering the inflated price you’ll likely be paying by ordering individual items from the menu at Taj Mahal, it makes a whole lot of sense to get your fix for Indian during buffet hours.
Taj Mahal is located at 1520 Market Street, Little Rock, AR. 501-520-4900