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The Taj Mahal

On one plate ...

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The last time I ate Indian food, I spent two greenbacks and a fistful of worthless Cambodian riel on a set meal of five courses and a beer so big I needed two hands to pick it up. I sat on a dirt floor swatting bugs off the table while waiting for food that I would later describe to friends as "good enough, given our geographical location." After a lunch date at the Taj Mahal, I heard those words bouncing off the far reaches of the globe and echoing in the Fairview strip mall parking lot. With a hankering for the satisfaction that only the steam tables of a lunch buffet can provide, I found an accomplice who'd never eaten Indian food and I promised to pick up the tab.

We knew we were a little late for the lunch rush and by the state of the dining room, it looked like it had been busy. Nearly every table was stacked with empty plates, crumpled napkins, half-eaten baskets of naan and glasses of melting ice. Months of eating in dodgy foreign restaurants has left me fairly indifferent to such surroundings but my accomplice was a bit shocked. Good thing there was an excellent beer list to keep him distracted.

Perusing the menu was fruitless on this trip as I only had intentions for the buffet and the first-timer concluded that the variety of the buffet would be the best bet for food he wasn't too sure about. While we waited for the kitchen to refresh some of the empty pans, we kicked back with a giant Stone Ruination IPA and sat glued to the big screen watching Indian mini-musicals.

There's a good reason Taj Mahal garnered BW's "Best Food Worth the Wait" in 2004. Hot fresh naan with spicy daal--which had not been pureed to soup consistency but was thick and hearty--was the favorite. The basmati rice was a bit cold but that'll learn us to show up for lunch a little sooner next time. Making the buffet wish list due to their absence: samosas and fiery hot curry. Buffet craving sated, I'll be returning to Taj Mahal to order from the menu (which, FYI, has some Greek choices as well). I figure if I left the restaurant happy despite a nearly empty dining room full of dirty dishes, it can only get better from there.

--Rachael Daigle once ate two fish eyeballs in a game of T or D.

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