When passersby saw the front of 719 King St. boarded up after Sept. 11, they thought that perhaps they had been attacked in retaliation. There was no such connection.
On Sept. 7, Taj Palace experienced a major fire in its kitchen. They staff boarded up the restaurant and waited for the insurance companies to assess the damage. Five months later, on Feb. 1, they reopened with a new kitchen, new paint, new carpets and new furniture.
The owner and chef remain the same, as does the food that diners have come to enjoy during the five years the restaurant has been open on King Street.
Owner D. Rai is very relieved to be back in business. This was the first time in years that he had such an extended vacation, but it wasn't a welcome one. Much of the five months was spent in dealing with insurance companies, securing new permits and purchasing new equipment for the restaurant.
Now his biggest challenge is getting the word out that he's open.
"About 30 to 40 percent of our customers have come back," said Rai. "Every day more people come by, see the boards gone and the new sign and realize that we're open."
ONE OF THE THINGS that diners at Taj Palace have come to like is the lunch buffet. Served everyday for $7.95, the buffet always includes salad, vegetarian dishes, meat items and a dessert. Last week, it featured butter chicken and tandoori chicken as the meat items. The salad had an Indian style homemade dressing and there was basmati rice, kidney beans, and saag paneer — cubes of farmer's cheese cooked with spinach and fresh spices. The buffet also included khari pakora — mixed vegetable fritters cooked with ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes and cumin seeds with a touch of yogurt, and Aloo Masala, cauliflower and potatoes cooked with turmeric, cumin, fennel and onions.
Items can still be ordered off the menu during lunch from the dinner menu. In the evening, a couple may want to order The Taj Palace Feast. This royal banquet spread for two costs $39.95 and includes soup of the day, tandoori chicken, seekh kabab, lamb rogan josh, butter chicken, lentils, nan, basmati rice, raita, mixed salad and a dessert of your choice. Take-out service is also available; ask for one of their pocket-sized menus.
Taj Palace is located at 719 King St. Call 703-548-1739.