Well, Indian cuisine has finally arrived in Northern Kentucky. I had heard rumors that the woman who owns Apna Indian Restaurant on Ludlow in Clifton was planning to open a place in Florence. Finally we saw an ad (with coupon) in the Weekend section of the Enquirer. So, armed with the coupon, we went looking for Apna on Connector Drive in Florence, just off Mall Road. We drove the length of Connector and didn't see it. Lo and behold, however, we did see a banner for the Taj India Restaurant, right next to the Florence Cinemas. We decided to try the Taj.
The Taj India has only been open for a few weeks; still waiting for the liquor license. Despite that fact, and the fact we saw no ads for this place, they were doing brisk business. It's probably a case of "location, location, location" since it's located next to the Cinemas and near Barnes and Noble where it's bright yellow banner would be noticed by folks who might know and like Indian food.
It looks like a traditional Indian restaurant inside with tablecloths, real glassware, and a buffet setup (not in use on a Saturday night). The staff on the floor all appear to be from India and, for some of them, English was still a little shaky. Our waiter, however, sounded like a native American speaker. The menu is extensive including tandoori, biryani, curries and other traditional Indian restaurant dishes. There were lots of vegetarian dishes as well as many, many chicken and lamb dishes. There are no less than thirteen appetizers on the menu.
Bill ordered the Vegetarian Thali dinner which included a vegetable samosa (filled pastry), a lentil dish, a spinach and cheese dish, and a chickpea dish, and raita (a yoghurt/cucumber dish that cools the inflamed palate). He ordered it with medium heat. He also ordered a mango lassi.
I ordered an appetizer of Shammi kebab which are minced, spiced lamb patties served with chopped onions and green peppers and a trio of chutneys. I also ordered Chicken Tikka Makhni which is marinated chicken in a tomato, butter, and cream sauce, served with rice. I asked for mild heat. We also got a side of Nan, a tandoori baked bread.
Everything was quite good. I loved the flavorful Makhni sauce and sopped up all of it with the nan. I liked the flavor of the minced lamb patties but they were a little hard and tended to crumble under the fork.
Bill liked all of his dishes. I did too since he graciously invited me to taste them. The spinach and cheese combination (Sagg Paneer) which absolutely delicious. The medium heat had a cumulative effect and we were glad that the raita came with his dinner.
The whole dinner cost $33.51. Food was plentiful so that was quite reasonable. We overheard other diners commenting on how good their dinners were, so other items on the menu must have been equally successful.
As for Apna, we went looking for it on Connector after we left the Taj. After several passes, we found a sign in a window indicating that Apna Restaurant and Indian Grocery would be opening soon. The Apna will be down at the other end of Connector, almost next to the Cathay Kitchen. This rather obscure location may make it difficult for Apna to compete with Taj for Northern Kentucky's Indian food market. Judging from last night's turn out at the Taj, however, there may just be enough interest in Indian food in N.KY to make both places viable.
The Taj is located at 7677 Mall Road. Phone is 859 594-4825 and they have a carry-out menu.