Posted by: seasin | July 24, 2009

Taj Mahal Restaurant, Sofia

Hmmm…I’m not sure the title is accurate, because this post is about their food, not exactly about the restaurant. Let me explain why that is. Because they DELIVER, that’s why. See?

Since we’re having visitors from Britain this week, visitors with small babies, we can’t really take them out to eat every evening. And also, because both DB and I are at work every day the whole day, we can’t cook much either. Solution? Take away (or in this case, as the nice lady who picked up the phone at the Taj pointed out for the sake of spurious accuracy, DELIVERY; take away is when you order by phone, but then you go over at the restaurant and pick up the food. How stupid is THAT service? If I can’t be bothered to go to the restaurant and eat , why would I want to go ALL the way to the restaurant, take the food, and then go ALL the way back home to eat it? Did I mention I hate take-away/delivery? If I’m eating at home, I want to eat my food that I lovingly made; if I want restaurant food, I want it served by people at tables that I don’t have to clean afterwards, in proper dishes that I don’t have to wash afterwards. Take-away/delivery makes no sense at all to me-but hey, since it exists, there might be some not-transilvanians there who like it for reasons that I will never understand; and also, we have guests and I’m learning to be FLEXIBLE!).

Now let me tell you a couple of things about the Taj, just to set the stage. I love the place. It’s one of the very few places in Sofia where I go with pure pleasure. First of all, because I love indian food. Which is really weird, because I’m a Transilvanian, and although I’ve been a fairly well travelled Transilvanian before I met DB, I’d never tasted indian food. Yes, my friends, two years ago I was still a curry virgin! (to my defense, I was busy exploring the wonders of sushi and other Japanese delicacies, and I was-and still am-an Italian food addict, and very interested in Fusion everything-Indian just somehow escaped my radar, maybe because there are no Indian restaurants in Bucharest to speak of-they might tell you that there are, but trust me, they have no idea what they’re talking about). So the man, besides introducing me to cricket, brough curry to my life. How can I ever resist that? Sold!!! I’m a total curry addict. That’s all fine and dandy, except I’m not allowed to make it 😦 . DB put his foot down when we divided the kitchen duties, and so from that day forth, he’s the curry maker and the barbecue technician of the family. But because he’s playing hard to get, it’s very very difficult to convince him to make me one. But let me digress no more. This is where the Taj comes in.

The restaurant is on 11th August street, at no. 11 :). That’s smack down in the centre of Sofia, very close to the Alexander Nevski cathedral, which is an added brownie point as far as I’m concerned, because it means that only about 10 minutes walk stand between me and my curry :). It’s in a nicely renovated house, spread out on three floors, out of which the most coveted appears to be the top one. Beats me why, for me the most coveted will always be the one with few or no smokers inside. Sadly, that’s a very rare occurence because the Taj doesn’t have a non-smoking room. Boooooo the Taj. The fact that they offer you a “non-smoking” table about half a metre away from where about 12 bulgarians seem to have entered a fog-creating competition, was an interesting subtle joke to begin with, but it stopped being funny in about 20 seconds. No, restaurant people, technically you DON’T have non-smoking tables if everyone smokes AROUND my table. Smoke doesn’t stop behind my seat just because you want it to!

But the service is very very decent, they speak good English, they have menus in English, the prices are acceptable, and the food, my friends, is on the list of the best things a person can chow down in restaurants in Sofia. For die-hard curry eaters (aka Brits or Commonwealth inhabitants-or Indians), the curries are disturbingly mild. That’s just because the restaurant is in Sofia, see, and Sofia is in Bulgaria, as I’m sure you realised, and Bulgarians just don’t do spicy hot foods. I think it’s genetic. The minute they smell spicy hot food, they start coughing, sneezing and generally looking like they’re on the brink of a very painful death. So, because probably 50% of its patrons are Bulgarians, the curries are very very mild. That’s good if you’re a Bulgarian, or if you’re interested in tasting Indian food, but you’re dead scared of spicyness. The Taj will do nicely for you-the food has all the correct spices and flavours, and is really really yummy and tasty and addictive, but it’s not curry-house hot. To be fair to them, they will offer you to spice it up a bit if you sport a Bristih accent, but let me tell you something, you won’t spot the difference :). That being said, the most spicy-hot dishes on the menu are the Onion salad (delicious!) and the Chicken Khaltada. So if you’re a Brit or have a Brit’s palate, try those. If you’re not or you don’t, then stay well away from them.

To cut the blabbering short, I called them last night to order enough food to feed an army. The lady on the phone was very patient and very nice. She said the food will be reaching us in an hour, and tell you what, it did!

We had the Onion salad (thin slices of raw onion, to which they have done something misterious because they were bright orange and spicy and sour and very very yummy indeed), a couple of veggie samosas (‘a couple’ literally means 2 pieces, aka one portion-they come with a dipping sauce of some description), mixed vegetable pakoras (also coming with the same dip, as far as I could tell), one Chicken Madras (the spiciest of the lot), one Chicken Jalfrezi (nice oniony taste), one Chicken Do Piazza (not spicy AT ALL) and one Lamb Korma (which apparently was very nice and also not spicy hot at all). We also had the Dal Chef Special (a combo of lentils pureed with spices and onions and spinach-extremely extremely yummy-but then again I’m a lentil and spinach fan so to me they’re always yummy, and even more so when they’re combined) and a portion of Aloo Gobi (that’s a potato and cauliflower sort of stew, wonderfully fragrant with all sorts of interesting indian spices-for those of you who never had Indian food before). Together with one plain, two garlic and one vegetable stuffed naan bread, and one portion of pulao rice with vegetables, that was a wonderful, wonderful, efortless dinner for four very hungry, very much into curry, adults.

I didn’t take any pictures because a. everything vanished in under 10 minutes; and b. the food came in very ugly plastic/styrofoam containers, and although I tried to set a proper table, the crowds smelled the curry and started hitting their plates whith their forks and knives into some sort of barbaric almost cannibalistic rythm (or in a dinner-at-Hogwarts fashion) and I didn’t have the time or opportunity to place the food on serving platters-I was afraid they’re going to rip me apart in order to get at the food, if I was going to delay it even for a minute (especially DB. As far as you’re concerned, T and L, that was just a joke :). I thought the food would look horrible in pictures in those ugly containers. And that would have been extremely unfair to the food, which was as always delicious.

Oh, and all the food described above was 142 BGN. 71 EURO. For four people. We kindly provided the wine, a Damianitza Rose, from our vast cellars (I think it was about 6 leva or so when we bought it in HIT:) and concluded the evening with an episode or two of Blackadder, a glass of port for yours trully, and a couple of shots of a dreadful thing called Orzechowka (it’s a Polish traditional drink, a walnut vodka that tastes more like a walruses’ bath water and is horribly brown) for the two men. British men seem to have a penchant for drinking and eating horrible things and pretending they like them, either because they don’t want to hurt the vodka’s feelings by spitting it out like the dreadful thing that it is, or because they’re always rooting for the underdog and perhaps they feel sorry for all the horrible horrible things ever produced in this world so they think “poor horrible thing, since someone made you I might as well drink/eat you, otherwise no one ever will”. Or they’re suckers for pain and suffering. Hmmm… to be further explored, I promise you :).

Tonight we’re going out (we managed to find a baby sitter!) to introduce our guests to Bulgarian traditional cuisine (which I also love-no, really! I know I often sound as if I don’t like this place much, but there honestly are loads of things that I adore. Proper Bulgarian food is one of them. It’s only when they pretend to make international posh things that the Bulgarians generally screw up, from my point of view. Maybe it’s just because they’re trying too hard to be like some other people and they forget to appreciate the wonderful things that they have of their own. It’s nice to grow wings, but roots can be a very good thing too). So in my next post, you’ll be treated to a review of another one of my favorite places to eat in Sofia. And I’m hungry just thinking about it 🙂

Oh, and in case you’re interested in the Taj but can’t rush there right now, here’s their web-site. I think they also deliver lunch 🙂 www.tajmahal.bg/en/ Enjoy your curry 🙂

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