What I know about Indian cuisine wouldn’t fill a tadka spoon, but having enjoyed several meals at Taj Aiken — at its first location in the old Hotel Aiken, now up the street a few yards — I want to know more. Well, really, I want to eat more. And more. Everything I’ve tried at Taj is stunning.
Let’s start with naan. Every meal should include some. The glistening flatbreads are available brushed with garlic, onion or chili flakes, each with a distinct personality, all sharing buttery flavor and puffy-crisp weightlessness. They’re great for mopping and dipping into curries and vindaloos and a pleasure to eat all by themselves.
On the subject of vindaloo, Taj Aiken’s is magnificent. It comes pepper-hot unless you ask the kitchen to tone it down or unless you are a masochist and want it even hotter. As is, it can set tongue aglow and drain sinuses, but within that heat is a tangy, vinegar-tinged hailstorm of spice; and it contains enough soft hunks of potato to serve as a welcome carbohydrate balm.
Another pepper-spiked dish, although not at vindaloo level, is an appetizer called samosa chat, for which warm, crisp-edged dumplings form a base for a hodge-podge of chickpeas, cool yogurt, tomato and onion, and a fusillade of bewitching spices. The cool/warm, hot/sweet dichotomies of this dish are beguiling.
Curries, both vegetarian and those made with chicken, lamb, or shrimp, are mildly spiced. When they are ladled onto the basmati rice that all tables get, they are a sort of subcontinental comfort food. Not that they are bland or boring! The swirl of spice is only more subtle … unless you happen to chomp down on one of the fennel seeds that lace the rice (and many other dishes here) — an experience that is something like a bottle of perfume exploding in your mouth. (Delicious perfume, that is!)
The menu is huge. I’ve yet to eat anything that didn’t fascinate my taste buds. I recommend Taj Aiken to anyone with an adventurous palate.
Note: Lunch is available both buffet style and off a menu. Dinner is menu-order only.