The unquestionable waif of spices that have just been awakened by being ground, crushed or muddled from their natural state is always an indication that there’s a whole lotta’ flavor going on in the kitchen.
Walking into the newly opened Taj Indian Cuisine was like a little gift from Bollywood, with love. Absolutely nothing ignites the taste buds quicker than the air thick with aroma so intoxicating you want to wrap it around you like a blanket. The dishes that those aromas were coming from only elevated the euphoria.
The culinary specialties of India are prepared by a passionate and talented chef named Avtar Rathone. “Passion is my main ingredient and I believe that comes through with every authentic dish I create," he said. "I grind the spices fresh for each dish a customer orders which makes a huge difference.” He said that most Indian restaurants change their cuisine to make it more American. Truly authentic Indian cuisine is vibrant with flavors that make your mouth come alive.
They have a lunch buffet that is worth getting your feet wet with the Indian cuisine and a fabulous way to try lots of delicious dishes at one time (and go back for more). A smorgasbord buffet of chef-prepared dishes made using all fresh ingredients -- $7.99.
A passionate chef that loves to create every dish to please you? -- PRICELESS!
The buffet is a bargain and the dishes always change, some are not even on the menu as the chef likes to be, well, a chef.
The Baigan Masala Eggplant was savory, hearty and rich with its ‘comfort food’ combination of beautiful baby eggplants and layered spices. Almost a goulash kind of dish, you could tell it had simmered for quite some time giving the flavors a chance to cook down and become robust.
Methi Matar (green peas), had fennel, heavy cream, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes rendering a flavorful, creamy dish so good you want to put it in a big bowl and eat it with a spoon.
The Panir Jalfarezi is made with fresh homemade cubes of cottage cheese cooked in fresh ground spices and sautéed with garden fresh vegetables. The cumin seasoning is mild and would be pleasing to the novice Indian cuisine diner.
There is a strikingly gorgeous potato dish named Potatoes 65 where the small wedges are sautéed with curry leaves, mustard seed, onion and vinegar. It leaves a slight after burn, but in a good kind of way, making you go back for more.
The Chicken Tikka Masala is sweet, well seasoned, creamy, with a rich sauce. A Fritter called Vegetable Pakora is made with chopped cauliflower, spinach, potatoes and onions mixed with spices, battered in chick pea flour and deep fried golden brown.
Sauces are made fresh and served in small bowls for accompanying just about everything they serve. Fresh mint leaves, onions, green pepper, green chili, cilantro and lemon juice pureed is their wonderful mint chutney and makes your mouth explode with flavor.
Tamarind is a bright red onion and tomato chutney that is crispy, crunchy and spicy. To cool things off, try the Raitasauce made with cucumbers, spices and Greek yogurt.
Goat Curry is a sought-after favorite and Avtar’s is rich and savory, simmering up to five hours with whole cinnamon sticks, clove, coriander, curry and star anise. If goat is not your thing, his Tandoori Chicken is colorful, fragrant, and baked in a real clay tandoori pot. Authentic is, after all, the only way Avtar prepares every dish on the menu. In fact, he will prepare any dish that you describe to him that you may have eaten before, but don’t remember the name.
Taj’s menu is extensive and it really offers something for everyone dining with you. The Tandoori breads are made to order and are baked in the tandoor (clay oven); get lots because you will want to use it as a mop to sop up every last bit of sauce left on your plate.
The place is beautiful and transports you off the streets of Fredericksburg right into India. Catering on site and for pick-up is available (yes, the chef will cook at your event and do everything from set-up, serve and cleanup!) Or you can book a private party in ‘India’ -- complete with entertainment.
Avtar’s business partner, Paul Rekhi, spent the last 14 years as a customer eating at Avtar’s restaurant in Richmond. When the restaurant recently closed, Paul could not go without dining on the delicious food Avtar prepared, so he went into business with him and opened Taj Indian Cuisine in Fredericksburg, where Paul now works. After eating Avtar’s food myself, I would have done the same thing.
When you go to India inside Taj Indian Cuisine, tell Avtar you have come for the Awesome Eats as seen in Fredericksburg Patch. They are located at 2032 Plank Rd., Fredericksburg.
About this column: Awesome Eats is a weekly column by local Foodie Shelly VanCleve.