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Taj India in Manchester. Emelia Attridge photo.




Taj India

Where: 967 Elm St., Manchester
Call: 606-2677
Visit: tajindia.co




Breaking a sweat
Taj India adds spice to downtown Manchester

10/09/14



Since Taj India opened in July, the new downtown Manchester restaurant has offered a lunch buffet of rotating dishes, from chicken tikka masala to curries and tandoori. Owner Rakesh Kumar said his lunchtime customers are using that opportunity to try new dishes.

This is the first Indian restaurant to open in the heart of downtown, and Kumar has noticed a large number of vegan diners as well as customers requesting spicier plates.
“People like spicy food here,” Kumar said. “I have two restaurants in Maine and people don’t eat too much spicy in that area, but everybody eats spicy mostly here. We make everything as mild and if people ask for spicy, we do spicy.”
Spices range from mild and sweet to sweat-inducing hot. The least spicy item on the menu? Kumar said that’s the chicken mango, which is mild and sweet boneless chicken cooked with fresh mangos, coriander, ginger and garlic. If you’re looking for heat, Kumar recommends ordering any of the vindaloos (chicken, lamb, haddock or shrimp), which are prepared with potatoes and very hot Indian spices (it says “pure heat wave” in each of the vindaloos’ descriptions on the menu).
For those not familiar with Indian cuisine, Kumar suggests ordering the “basics,” like chicken tikka masala (boneless chicken marinated in yogurt, charbroiled and sauteed in herbs), chicken curry or vegetarian dishes, which are also popular. 
“[If anyone is new] we walk them through the main dishes, the most popular dishes people love —  basics, like curries are basic, masala is basic, all the kabob dishes, like tandoori,” Kumar said. “We have all combinations. We have lamb, chicken, shrimp and veggies, plus we also have special goat meat. Everybody’s not as familiar with goat meat.”
Diners also get to customize their own heat level with the chutneys that are served at each table. There’s one spicy mint chutney, a sweet tamarind chutney and an onion chutney.
There’s a section on the menu devoted just to breads, including different varieties of naan, traditional Indian leavened white bread cooked on the sides of the tandoor. There’s aloo naan, stuffed with potato and spices, punjabi naan, stuffed with coconut, saffron, and sweet spices, and even naan stuffed with chicken tikka. But it’s the naan dressed with fresh garlic that diners are really enjoying, Kumar says.
“That’s everybody’s favorite,” he said. “That’s the first thing they say is, ‘garlic.’”
The new restaurant is located in the space formerly occupied by Ate Doors Down, which closed this spring. It wasn’t long after Ate Doors Down closed that Taj India began to remodel, and it opened only a few months after its neighbor, Campo Enoteca. 
“We were looking for space in Manchester, and we found this one,” Kumar said. “We thought of [opening] a new Indian restaurant in downtown. … We asked a couple people around and everybody loved it, they said they would love to have us here. Anybody we talked to, nobody said no. I looked for a couple months and then I found this spot; the right spot, right place, right timing.”
 
As seen in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Hippo. 





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