Middle Eastern and South Asian restaurants must be witnessing a spike in late-night dining this June, seeing as how the month of Ramadan fell on the longest days of the year. Such was the case on the evening following summer solstice, as flocks of fasting Muslims filled up Le Taj for iftar (break-fast) right at sunset; a pleasant surprise given we were expecting a slow Monday night.
tagged: OPEN ON MONDAY
After hitting this longstanding, 30-year old restaurant a handful of times over the years, we feel confident labeling it the most, if not only, upscale Indian eatery in town. The setting is intimate and sophisticated, with a towering see-through glass wine cellar acting as the dining room's focal point. Unfortunately tonight, the presence of several loud toddlers took a little away from this refined ambiance.
tagged: TANTRUM CENTRUM
The menu at Le Taj is comprised of Indian classics, from curries and tandooris to biryanis and thalis. Covering all the subcontinent's regions and serving vegetarians and carnivores alike, the food is authentic and presented in traditional metal bowls. Le Taj also offers these same classics in a buffet setting for lunch; great quality for great value!
"sweet & sour mix of diced potatoes & chick peas seasoned with tamarind sauce & yogurt, served on a spinach leaf, fried crispy in a herbal batter". While the tangy tamarind worked very well against the sweet soft boiled spuds and the rich tender chickpeas, we felt the dish was a little boring. The spinach leaf was absent and did not add flavor.
"assorted appetizers: garlic shrimp, chicken malai, seekh kabab & fish amritsari served with salad". This dish was a total disappointment. The shrimp felt like eating a soggy fried batter of garlic, the chicken looked (and tasted) as if it were boiled, and the fish was just bland. The saving grace was the kabab, a spiced zingy mixture of grilled skewered beef.
"boneless pieces of chicken in a creamy sauce of ground almonds & freshly ground spices". The juicy and tender chicken pieces bathed in a wonderfully aromatic mild creamy sauce. The almond flavor was very subtle, but the coriander and fenugreek shined. A delicate dish fit for a special occasion.
"lamb cooked with onions, cumin, coriander, chilies & added vinegar". This curry was not off-the-charts spicy (even though we asked for it to be), yet enough so that we broke a sweat. The heat was fruity adding an extra layer of flavor to the spiced yogurt sauce. Unfortunately, while most of the lamb was tender, some pieces were a bit dry and chewy.
"leavened triangular flat bread of fine flour served hot". Sweet and chewy with some crispy edges, this bread was just perfect to dip in or mop up any sauces on our plates.
tagged: MOUTH ON FIRE!
On the personnel front, most of our experience was uncharacteristically flawed tonight. First, the maître d' left us hanging for a couple minutes at the entrance to go discuss with a waiter where to seat us (mind you we had a reservation). Next, there was a general sense of absenteeism and tardiness with everything from taking as well as receiving our order and finally getting our bill. Quite the letdown.
tagged: WHERE'S THE WAITER?
It is our opinion that Indian food at restaurants pales in comparison to authentic home cooking. While we believe this also holds for Le Taj, it still delivered one of the best Indian meals we've had in a while (the unusually poor service notwithstanding). From those spectacular mains to the elegant backdrop and its longevity, Le Taj is easily Montreal's crown jewel when it comes to the subcontinent's food.
Price per person: $34
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.