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Hawaii’s got some good Indian food. And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth, or in this case, from the words of our Indian friend. While she likes Himalayan Kitchen, she says Cafe Taj Mahal is even better. Just a few blocks down and tucked in a nook of busy Waialae Avenue, Cafe Taj Mahal has become her family’s go-to place whenever they’re craving good Indian food.
With that in mind, we figured the restaurant must be pretty legit, so we headed to Taj Mahal this weekend for another binge on Indian food. The menu definitely had a few more options than Himalayan does, except there was only one type of chicken curry. So we went ahead and ordered the Chicken Curry Masala (Boneless dubbed chicken cooked with ginger, garlic, tomato, onion, herbs and spices).
We also got two dishes from the vegetarian menu, the Palak Paneer (housemaid special cheese cooked with creamy spinach, onion, garlic and spices) and the Vegetable Korma Curry (Mixed vegetables with onion, garlic, ginger and coconut milk sauce). In addition, we got Rice Polau (Basmati rice with homemade ghee, garlic, ginger and herbs) and buttered naan.
Overall, the food turned out to be just as delicious as Himalayan Kitchen, with each having their own unique flavor and blend of spices. I would say that Taj Mahal’s version of “mild” is actually really mild and next time, I might ask for “medium.” That’s very unlike me since I’m usually a pansy when it comes to spicy foods. Although the portions looked small, they were actually more than enough for the three of us. We got to take home leftovers for the next day’s dinner! The leftovers turned out to be even tastier because of the extra night of soaking in spices. And the naan! I prefer this one to Himalayan’s because it was so buttery and so soft…mmm, I love naan.
There were only two aspects of Taj Mahal that left a bitter taste in my mouth. First, the parking. You turn off of Waialae and into a narrow one-way strip where cars park. If those are taken, then you might try checking farther down, in the cul de sac of three available spots; otherwise, you have to reverse all the way to the street because there’s no where to turn around. Make sure not to hit any customers, parked cars or cars that have just entered the lot. AND please make sure not to get rammed from oncoming traffic! From there, you can find street parking or park at the paid lot about a three-minute walk away.
The second thing we weren’t so fond of, the wait time. We waited an hour for our food, in a restaurant with only a few other customers. I suppose they were also taking care of take-out orders, but still, an hour is a long time for hungry customers to wait. The server did apologize for what he admitted “took forever,” so that quelled our impatience a bit.
As delicious as the food was at Taj Mahal, those two things sort of put us off. I think we may still be going to Himalayan Kitchen when we’re in the mood for Indian. And if we ever do go back to Taj Mahal, I just may do take-out instead.
CAFE TAJ MAHAL • 3036 Waialae Ave., Ste. B4, Honolulu, HI 96816 • Opens Mon-Sun 11am-2pm, 5-10pm • www.cafetajmahal.com • 808-732-6496 • Free parking or paid lot across the street on Dole St.