Even though I am a Muslim, I do not observe the halal diet when it comes to animal flesh – except for the pork part. However, some of my brethren do; and often leave the choice of where to dine to me, provided I pick a halal joint. Therefore, for tonight's dinner with such a friend, I chose my go-to Indian restaurant in town: Le Taj.
Already reviewed here six years ago, this visit would force me to reassess this venerable downtown eatery vis-à-vis the bunch of competitors I have tried since. With restaurant patios busy as can be during this post-pandemic summer, the lack of outdoor seating here meant a table was available for us, even without a reservation.
tagged: NO NEED TO RESERVE
Recognized for being the first Montreal restaurant serving fine Indian cuisine, Le Taj has managed to survive and still be relevant after three decades due to its loyalty and relationship building. I can still recognize some waiters working here since my first visit twenty years ago.
Some of those were greeting regulars by name, guiding them to their favourite tables and exchanging pleasantries à la Cheers. This being an upscale restaurant – complete with tablecloths and a formal vibe – the clientele is predominantly middle aged and well dressed.
Le Taj's ornated menu lists page after page of traditional Indian specialties with some Western adaptations. While I waited for my friend, I ordered myself a Taj Mahal Premium Lager, which was smooth with a grainy taste, but arrived not cold enough.
One of the nice little extras here is a complimentary assortment of dips and chutneys – raita, tamarind, cilantro and mango – which will whet your appetite and set your mouth to a painful but welcome level of fire. When my friend showed up, we split an appetizer sampler, three main dishes with garlic naan on the side, then finished with a dessert each.
Highlights included a lamb vindaloo – a dish I must order anywhere I go – which was succulent, tangy and spicy; and a beauty to mop up with fragments of naan. An okra dish featured nicely-cooked pods of the unpopular vegetable sautéed in a fragrant masala full of flavor. Finally, who can resist an aromatic, fluffy mound of biryani balanced against a dollop of refreshing raita?
"seekh kabab, chicken malai, garlic shrimp & fish amritsari, served with salad"
"lamb cooked with onions, cumin, coriander & chilies, with added vinegar"
"okras prepared in a blend of spices"
"leavened flat bread of fine flour"
"homemade cottage cheese patties dipped in milky saffron & nuts sauce"
Running the room alongside the aforementioned veteran servers are a couple of younger cohorts. With their white shirts tucked beneath black pants, they convey a professional image in line with Le Taj's elegance. I had no qualms about our waiter for the evening; questions about the menu were answered with knowledge and courses arrived with good pacing. This is clearly a well-oiled machine!
While Le Taj may not be the most authentic Indian restaurant in town, it is clearly a temple of the subcontinent's gastronomy. From its posh digs boasting a floor-to-ceiling wine cellar and handmade wooden carvings to its refined fare starring rich sauces and creamy curries, this is undoubtedly Montreal's premiere destination for high-end Indian dining.
Even in the face of conventional mom-and-pop shops and more adventurous newcomers, this institution has yet to relinquish its crown.
Price per person: $31.67
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.