Thursday, February 2, 2012

Royal Taj In Columbia

Romantic dark = Good meal, bad blog photos
Royal Taj is my favorite kind of restaurant -- one with ambition.  It also competes with some of my favorite restaurants -- the Indian restaurants like House of India and Mango Grove.

The news is that Royal Taj competes well.

Indian cuisine in Columbia is so good that the McGaw Road restaurant seemed almost extra when it opened as "India Delight" two years ago.  They changed the name, and they have consistently upped the experience.  Over recent months, people kept mentioning Royal Taj -- its lunch buffet, its ambiance.

That's how I pulled Mrs. HowChow past her favorite House of India and into Royal Taj.  I had eaten there twice for the lunch buffet where they fill two tables with dishes and offer specialities like hand-cooked dosas.  For dinner, the lights go down, and the table cloths and service make this one classy level up from most casual restaurants.

The food is a level up as well.  They start you with chickpea flour crisps called papadum, and the gratis starter set the bar high immediately.  The three chutneys to eat with the papadum were bright and fresh.  One with cilantro, one with tamarind.  We went straight with our test meal:  chicken korma and the eggplan dish called baingan bharta.  We can eat them happily at House of India, so Royal Taj had to be something special.

It is.  The chicken curry came creamy with flavors of tomato and meat, and the eggplant was smokey and better than baingan bharta that I have had before.  The smokiness was a deeper, surprising flavor , and the dish comes chunky.  Often, it's just a puree.  Royal Taj added texture with eggplant chunks and onion done perfectly where it's crisp, but cooked through.  Scoop this up with the warm naan, and you'll make even meat-lovers happy with a vegetarian entree.

I still love House of India, and I can't wait for Mango Grove to open its new space for vegetarian items and the dosas.  They're still two of the best kitchens around Howard County.  But Royal Taj -- along with other Indian places like Flavors of India and Akbar in Coumbia and Tandoor Grill on Johns Hopkins Road -- makes this one of the deepest cuisines around.

Royal Taj
8874 McGaw Road
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR:  Royal Taj is in a shopping center on McGaw Road just west of Snowden River Parkway.  The center also has Jason's Deli, The Green Turtle, and the Cha-Ya Asian restaurant.


Sammo said...

You should also check out Flavors of India. They're on Columbia Gateway Dr. I think it's the same owner as House of India because during a power outage all the workers from House went to Flavors to work. Guy from house told me to go there when they were closed... same menu same chefs.

Jeanine said...

I LOVE Royal Taj! In addition to the delectable food (try the buffet, you'll get to shop for your favorite dishes, and it also comes with unlimited, steaming-hot masala chai tea, and a dessert selection), they offer impeccable service. Their staff is incredibly friendly, and they'll remember you even after one visit. I have a severe lentil allergy, which can make trips to many Eastern restaurants a challenge, and the attentiveness of Royal Taj staff and their delicious food has made going out for Indian a real treat for me!

Anonymous said...

Royal Taj is not just my family's favorite Indian restaurant, but probably our favorite restaurant overall! Food is delicious and of very high quality - a big compliment from me, one of the world's pickiest eaters. Atmosphere is much more upscale than the other area Indian restaurants. And the service is outstanding! All the staff are very attentive and if you look like you need something, a waiter (even if not your waiter) will immediately come over. Manager remembered us after our first visit and gives us a free bottle of wine when we come for birthdays.
Manager remembered us after our first visit

Eddie said...

Agree with the others who left comments... Royal Taj is really teriffic. Love the people who work there (which is SO rare), love the food, it's delicious/complex/tasty. Great restaurant, if you haven't already tried it, TRY IT! They do take-out, and I would eat there everyday if I could!

Anonymous said...

I'll jump onto the royal Taj bandwagon. We used to be a House of India family, but after our first trip to Royal Taj we never went back. The food is excellent in both places but the service is what blows House of India out of the water. Plus, as a added surprise, we went there for the buffet a couple of weeks ago. We had our 3 year old, who ate a good amount, but he was not charged for the meal.

Even with takeout you get great service. A couple times I've had small mango lassi while I waited, which is always nice.

brandon said...

I echo the comments on service. My wife stopped by once around lunchtime just to get a gift certificate and the manager invited her to grab a complimentary plate of food from the buffet.

Jim S. said...

We love Royal Taj. Other then finding a table during rush times, we have never had a problem there. We tried out Flavors of India but we haven't been back there since our first time because my wife was of the opinion that her dinner chicken dish was most likely made with the left-overs from the lunch buffer.

dzoey said...

Royal Taj is my favorite Indian restaurant as well. Their lunch buffet stands above the others, and the owner is the friendliest guy I know, who always knows how to make someone welcome.

The only down note is I convinced a friend of mine from Chennai to try it and he was disappointed, commenting that the curries all tested similar. Maybe he went on an off day, or maybe Royal Taj isn't that authentic.

From my point of view, I really enjoy Royal Taj and continue to go.

Brian said...

Gotta agree with the comments about the service, vastly superior to the other Snowden Indian restaurants.

I still really like House of India but Taj hits the spot with the lunchtime buffet (if you can handle the occasional wait, word has obviously gotten around, very popular).

Anonymous said...

I believe Royal Taj is the best Indian restaurant in the Baltimore metro area, and frankly it beats out Bethesda too (although I haven't been down there in awhile). Do note that Royal Taj makes dosai at its lunch buffet as well, and they are excellent.

Jennifer Diamond said...

We love Royal Taj! The owner is super nice and remembered us even when we hadn't been there in over 9 months because we had a baby! Talk about an amazing memory! The food is excellent and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Whenever we go out for Indian we always go here!

Anonymous said...

excellent food and service, the best in Columbia. I would eat there everyday, too, but I always have leftovers for one or two more meals!