The tangy tastes of Taj

This authentic Indian restaurant lights up Or Akiva.

Taj Kosher   (photo credit: Courtesy)
Taj Kosher
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Diners in Israel who want both a kosher and Indian meal do not have a great many choices, especially if they live in the center of the country.
When we were invited to sample the food at Taj in Or Akiva – not, as it happens, by the owner but by good friends who share our love of Indian food – we were delighted to accept.
Taj is the brainchild of 36–yearold Moshe Solomon, who opened the restaurant a year ago. It’s situated on a shopping promenade in the seaside town that is located next door to Caesarea.
The restaurant a second culinary venture for Solomon, who tried running a shakshouka place in Alfei Menashe for a while. It didn’t prosper but, undeterred, he decided to offer food he knows from home and enlisted his mother to do all the cooking.
His parents came to Israel from Mumbai in 1973, and he was raised on good Indian home cooking, which is what he now offers in his restaurant. His mother does the cooking, and his father also helps out. During the day, Solomon’s wife works elsewhere but helps in the evenings. She is also Indian, although born in Dimona. So the whole enterprise is strictly a family business.
And so to the food. We began our meal with two distinctly Indian starters. Batata vada (NIS 22) is a very popular street food in Mumbai that consists of a ball of mashed potato flavored with crushed mustard seed and various herbs and spices. It’s coated in chickpea flour and is deep fried.
The second starter was Punjabi samosa (NIS 27), a pyramid of short crust pastry filled with a mixture of potatoes, green peas and multiple spices. Both were delicious and got the taste buds tingling.
All the main courses were chicken-based or vegetarian, which was fine with us. I chose the chicken tikka (NIS 59), which came in the form of brightly colored chicken chunks on skewers with a marvelous flavor of spices I was unfamiliar with. The meat was tender and juicy and lacked nothing for being made without the traditional yogurt.
Two of our party had chicken curry (NIS 59), a very generous quarter of chicken in a pungent sauce. And the fourth dish was chicken biryani – long-grain rice with flavorful chunks of chicken and dried fruits. All the food was good, freshly made and had just the right degree of spiciness for our palates.
Basmati rice accompanied the meal, and crispy homemade poppadums added another interesting texture.
As the restaurant has no liquor license, diners are free to bring their own beverages. Quantities of whiskey and wine were imbibed and went surprisingly well with the Indian tastes.
Taj does not offer desserts.
“Most Indian desserts are dairy,” explains Solomon, “and I don’t want to use milk substitutes and lower my standards.”
The restaurant has a kashrut certificate from the Or Akiva rabbinate. There are several vegetarian options, and it is veganfriendly.
Prices are extremely reasonable.
A meal for two shouldn’t cost more than NIS 200. For a quick curry fix, Taj is definitely the place.
Taj Kosher 3 Rothschild St., Or Akiva Tel: (04) 838-8440 Open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.