Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Raja Indian Restaurant
2955 Peachtree Rd., NE, Atlanta, GA www.2goclub.com
Today I ate lunch at Raja for the second time in the past six months. Raja is a small restaurant located beside an empty Verizon Wireless store in a shopping center on Peacthree Rd. in Buckhead. The interior reflects Americans' typical idea of Indian ambiance - red plastic tablecloths, gold wall hangings and the same, lyric less Oriental song replaying continuously in the background. Suffice it to say that you won't be eating at Raja for the decor.
You also won't be eating there for the food.
To give you the correct perspective on this post, I want to state that I absolutely adore Indian food. I shiver with excitement when I smell curry, lick my happy lips after eating naan bread and can practically drink cucumber raita out of a glass. I eat Indian cuisine every opportunity I get, which may not seem like very often given my complete deficiency of reviews of Indian restaurants up to this point. You have my word - there will be upcoming, additional posts on local Indian restaurants. Unfortunately Raja just happens to be the first one.
Today I had the chicken biryani lunch special. The special was $8.25 and came with soup, dal, rice and dessert. In the case of the biryani (which is comprised mainly of rice) I was served a vegetable medley rather than more rice, a reasonable and pleasant substitute. The vegetable medley was fragrant and soft, perhaps the best component of my meal. The biryani, normally a wonderful dish of pilau rice, peas, carrots and in my case, chicken, had a good flavor but was very greasy, leaving huge spots of dark red oil all over my plate. The chicken was dry and overcooked. The soup, which was some sort of completely pureed version of mulligatawny, had an very good, salty flavor. The flavor couldn't make up for the mushy consistency, however.
Speaking of mushy, the dal was ridiculous and nearly flavorless. Two spoonfulls were enough for me, and then it was unceremoniously shoved to the far reaches of my table. I also ordered a serving of naan ($2.75), and regret to inform you that it may have been the worst naan I've ever eaten. I want to clarify this: if I had not expected it to be the very lightly baked, leavened, bulbous and light brown bread that I am accustomed to receiving when I order naan at other restaurants, I may not have been disappointed. As far as bread goes, it was fine. As far as naan in particular goes, it was sub-par. The consistency (apparently a problem in multiple dishes at Raja) was too crispy, and the top was far too buttery. I love butter, but if naan is baked correctly it does not require slathered butter to produce flavor. Most steak lovers know that a really fine cut of beef does not require steak sauce. It's the same with naan and butter.
Incidentally, I never received a dessert on either of my trips to Raja. I don't know what happened here, but I wasn't severely disappointed about this discrepancy considering my general bad impression of the food.
You may not believe this after reading the above review, but I actually liked the food at Raja better on this trip than on my last lunch there. This time I would label it a C-, whereas several months ago I would have given it a D or D-. That time it was chicken curry, which one assumes that any Indian restaurant can adequately produce. In the case of Raja, all assumptions are out.
On a happier note, service was attentive. I was rereading Gone With the Wind during my lunch today and the waitstaff made sure to refill my water glass and clear my table without disturbing me. Very nice.
Verdict: Possibly improving but still poor.