Guam Diner Bytes: The Taj Palau
Dear Guam Food Guy reader,
My first review of The Taj Restaurant in Palau was in March 2008. I returned in October 2010 and reviewed this legendary restaurant again. It has become iconic. Most of the rave reviews put The Taj at the very top of their list of favorite restaurants, and definitely a must-do dining experience when you visit Palau.
To understand why the high praise for The Taj being not just considered the best Indian restaurant in Micronesia, but one of the best restaurants, you have to appreciate the vision of what The Taj has established. They have fashioned it based on the lifestyle of the Indian aristocracy in the early 1900s. The Taj is a recreation of this splendid time in history, which had several tiers of royalty from the Sahibs to the Memsahibs and Zamindars. For the special events and occasions, lavish feasts would be prepared and served. The Taj’s recipes are handed down by former grand and master chefs (the Khansamas). They use only authentic ingredients. The service is ornate, colorful, rich, and exotic, which pretty much describes the food.
On this trip I was quite surprised to see that the old Taj as I knew it was a thing of the past! Owner/Manager Robert Scaria has expanded the dining area and bar to now include a stage for a band, 2 large opulent circular couches with colorful drapery and beautiful artwork. Moreover, they have a built-in aquarium with fish and the largest living coral colony I have ever seen in a small aquarium. There is a large dance floor and enough room now to accommodate a bus-full of tourists! I saw the renovation both during the day (the colors are magnificent and brilliant - well designed and color coordinated in a tasteful style) and at night! The renovation has made an entirely new ambiance!!
On my first night Robert had prepared me a Taj sampler of dishes, including Chicken Curry, Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Curry, Goa Fish Curry (mahi cooked in a coconut flavored sauce), Shrimp Chettinadu, and colorful Kashmiri Pulao (aromatic long Basmati rice cooked with dried fruits, nuts and saffron. I enjoyed the variety and intensity of flavors as my palate was immersed in the rich savory spices that created unique tastes for each dish. On this first night I was treated to a bowl of Kulfi ($5, Indian ice cream enriched with nuts and flavored with rose water).
I was on a very short trip so on my last night Robert went all out and set out a feast that I shared with others. I was bedazzled by the Lobster Malai (a very juicy lobster cooked with fresh blended herbs, coconut, almonds and cream). It sells at the market price. Another huge dish was the Tandoori Mix Grill ($50), which is more than enough for 2 people, and combines tandoori chicken, malai kabab, seekh kabab, Boti kabab, Tandoori Shrimp, and Fish Tikka. This is accompanied by a fresh Garlic Nan bread and Dhal Malkhani ($12, Mixed lentils combined with onions, garlic, ginger and a hint of bay leaves simmered over a low fire until tender).
Another sensory blast came from the Peshwari Raan, or Tender Leg of Lamb (Half - $35/ Full - $60), which is marinated in rich exotic herbs and spices, then barbecued to mouth-watering perfection in a clay oven. Something I had not had eaten anywhere before was the Kashmiri Nan Bread ($6), which is a special nan stuffed with dried fruits and raisins. This was delicious...something I could eat at anytime!
What am amazing feast! I don’t recall ever being so full of rich spices and flavors. How I managed to still have room to drink some Masala Tea, I don’t know. I’m glad I did since it relaxed my belly and warmed me from the inside out.
If you ever have the opportunity to get to Palau, I highly recommend you stop by The Taj for an extraordinary dining experience you will never forget!
Bon appetit & Namaste!
Ken “The Guam Food Guy” Stewart