Taj Palace

Licensed/BYO $-$$
340 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart
03) 62344624
Open: Daily Lunch noon to 3pm, Dinner 5pm to 10pm. Takeaways.

Harry and Kusum Gauba are from northern India where Kusum worked as a dressmaker in New Delhi and Harry as a qualified pastry chef in Chandigarh. While Harry continued his trade on their arrival in Hobart, Kusuk couldn’t see many opportunities as a dressmaker and so worked in the kitchens of a few of Hobart’s Indian restaurants. They then opened Taj Palace 12 years ago.

For the first eight years they employed a chef they’d brought from India. Since then, Kusum has worked all day seven days a week doing everything in the kitchen herself and, as tiny as she is, she’s the only person I’ve known who can properly knead 25kg of dough at a time. As Harry says, “It’s been hard work, but very rewarding”.

And I found our first ever visit to the restaurant a fortnight ago was similarly rewarding.

Seating around 60 at bare, tightly spaced tables with comfortable armed chairs in the main room and in a separate group dining area, the walls are decorated with fading Indian prints and wall hangings with large windows framed by fairy lights providing a close-up view of the passing pedestrian parade on Elizabeth Street. There’s a bar in one corner, a service area in another, a street-front takeaway section and, on entering, the air is suffused with gentle sitar music and an appetising aroma of spices.

Due to its cultural, linguistic and historic diversity, it is said that India has a greater variety of regional cuisines than anywhere else in the world. And with dishes running from the Himalayan foothills through the Punjab to Hyderabad and the dosas and fiery vindaloos of Goa in the south, the large Taj Palace menu does as good a job as any I’ve seen in presenting the best of the country’s rich, culinary diversity.

There are, for example, ten different tandoori breads running from the basic roti to a Kashmiri naan filled with a blend of dried fruits and another, one that could well pass as a dessert, consisting of coconut, sultanas and cream. And the authentic charcoal-fuelled tandoor oven gives these breads and other tandoor-cooked specialties a charred singe and intensity of flavour that are impossible to replicate in tandoors fired with gas.

We started with a shared Taj platter consisting of a vegetable samosa, a crisp, deep-fried paneer pakora of cottage cheese, herbs and mild spices and, from the tandoor, beautifully coloured, juicy and tender lamb cutlets that had been marinated in yoghurt, garlic, ginger, lemon, chilli and dried fenugreek leaves and finally, in a nod to the Punjab, chiken tikka spiced with ginger, garlic and tandoori masala.

Accompanied by a delicious yoghurt, lemon, mint and coriander dipping sauce and another even more delicious black, syrupy dip made from tamarind and dates, the platter was a perfect start to the meal.

Then followed tender and spicy Himalayan Chicken and Jhal Lamb, a house specialty of lamb braised with dried, green Kashmiri chillies, smashed cardamon pods, cinnamon, ground fennel seeds, tomato and a complex mix of other spices, cooked with natural yoghurt and cream for an hour or so and served topped with fresh coriander.

There’s an extensive range of Tasmanian and international beers as well as a small but well-chosen selection of Tasmanian wines plus a few from the mainland.
All in all it was an enjoyable meal and the menu has pages of other dishes that will certainly attract us back again.

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