By Christine Gritmon / Photos by Joe Larese
Taj Palace owner Ratna Kataria has always loved hosting and cooking for friends and family. In 2012, she expanded that dream with the opening of her own restaurant in White Plains.
“Every person who comes in is special,” she says. “I want to make their day!”
Kataria developed Taj Palace’s 200-dish-strong menu herself. A native of Northern India, Kataria’s menu primarily focuses on that region, but her four chefs bring different specialties from all areas of the country — for example, Idli and Dosa from the South, and Chicken Dhansak (lentils and chicken), a dish native to the Parsi culture.
“These are not just recipes I learned; my grandmother, my mother made them,” says Kataria. “They are traditional and authentic Indian dishes.”
A lot of the restaurant’s meals are vegetarian or vegan, and much of the produce is organic. Heavy cream is avoided and all milk products are organic, including the paneer cheese made in-house. Heart-healthy olive or canola oils are the only oils used. All food is made fresh daily.
Delhi Chat, consisting of flour crisps with diced potatoes and chickpeas topped with seasoned yogurt and tamarind sauce, is a popular appetizer. “It’s a street food, but healthy,” says Kataria. Another is Lasuni Gobhi, toasted cauliflower tossed with a lightly spiced garlic tomato sauce. Tandoori dishes, a Northern Indian specialty, feature the same marinades Kataria grew up with at home, cooked in a special Tandoor clay oven. Lamb Saag and Chicken Tika Masala are also customer favorites. Biryani, a combination of rice with meat or vegetables, gets its own section of the menu; Kataria recommends the Hyderabadi Vegetarian Biryani, a fragrant, savory mix of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas, and potatoes mixed with dried fruits and nuts, herbs and spices, and saffron.
An assortment of delectable desserts includes Gulab Jamun (fried cheese dumplings in a honey cardamom sauce) and Rasamalai (flat, round cakes of cottage cheese cooked in sugar syrup and thinned milk, served cold with chopped pistachios). Taj Palace makes their own ice cream and yogurt with organic milk. To drink, instead of the ubiquitous Mango Lassi (which they also have), try their Sweet Lassi, mixed with a special essence made in-house. Nimbu Shikanji, a sort of Indian lemonade mixed with rock salt, honey and mint, is available salty or sweet. “Every house [in Northen India]makes it,” says Kataria.
As for the ambiance, Kataria has taken as much pride in the restaurant’s décor as a hostess would her own home. “‘Taj’ means ‘crown,’ and this is my crown,” she says.
The space is beautifully decorated in rich, warm shades of red and gold, with Indian textiles as accents. A statue of Lord Shiva resides in a corner for good luck. Tile stairs lead to a side room that is open at busy times and for private parties. There is also a banquet hall upstairs for events. The main dining room features a buffet at lunchtime.
If you go…
Taj Palace, 95 S. Broadway, White Plains. 914-437-5900; www.tajpalacewp.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m. Friday; noon-3 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m. Saturday; noon-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. p.m. Sunday.