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Updated: 1:09 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, 2012 | Posted: 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You gotta try this: Taj Mahal

By Addie Broyles

Indian food goes over so well with Texans for a reason, says Taj Mahal co-owner Ajay Behl.

"With the long, hot summers, the spices give you immunity to the heat," he says.

Behl, who, along with restaurant co-owner Willie Abraham, was born in India but moved here with his family, has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years, but Taj Mahal is his newest project. (His other restaurant, Taj Palace, which is near Highland Mall, has been open since 1990.)

Abraham worked as a travel agent in Austin for more than a decade but decided to get into the restaurant business as more people started booking trips themselves.

It's no surprise that Taj Mahal, like many Indian restaurants in Austin, serves a buffet at lunch because so many traditional items, including all those curries and other sauce-based dishes like saag paneer, hold up well on steam tables and under heat lamps. Naan, the famous bread that, when done right, is made in a tandoor oven, only declines in quality when it comes out, so servers at Taj Mahal bring fresh bread to diners after they've passed through the buffet. (You can tell an Indian restaurant is doing things right when my dining companion, who is Indian, proclaimed the naan to be the best she's had in Austin.)

Highlights on a recent visit included crisp pakoras, made with freshly fried spinach, a dish with eggplant and potatoes called baingan masala, chana masala that wasn't too oily or heavy, and freshly made chutneys.

Behl and Abraham offer both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes on the buffet and the regular menu, and at dinner you can order a three-course prix fixe meal with or without meat.

You can order off the menu at lunch, but few of the dozens of workers who come in from nearby offices complexes do. With the buffet, you can try a little bit of everything, including soup and dessert, and you can get in and out in half an hour, if need be.

(We also saw two astute diners come in and fill to-go containers from the buffet to take back to their co-workers who couldn't get away from the office. Soon, the owners are going to start selling their thick, sweet mango lassis in plastic to-go bottles, and they are hoping to get the product into grocery stores eventually.)

Taj Mahal Indian cuisine, 12407 North Mopac Expwy, suite 200B. 837-4444, tajmahalaustin.com

Five other Indian places to try

Teji's, 1205 Round Rock Ave., Round Rock. 244-3351, tejifoods.com.

Sarovar, 8440 Burnet Road. 454-8636, sarovar.net.

Madras Pavilion, 9025 Research Blvd. 719-5575, madraspavilionaustin.com.

Bombay Bistro, 10710 Research Blvd. 342-2252, bombaybistroaustin.com.

Indian Spicy Kitchen, 500 Canyon Ridge Drive. 828-6909, indianspicykitchen.net.


You Gotta Try This

Do you have a favorite place to eat that you wish you could tell the world about? With this new You Gotta Try This series, we'll highlight eateries that aren't necessarily new or noteworthy other than the fact that they are serving good food that's worth trying. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert. Kyle, Pflugerville, Bee Cave, far East Cesar Chavez Street. Where or what kind of food doesn't matter, and the goal isn't to review these restaurants but rather to find some good things worth sharing. We are happily taking recommendations at abroyles@statesman.com.

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