Le Taj: A love affair with Montreal for over 30 years

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Le Taj Restaurant was one of the first Indian restaurants in Montreal and in our opinion, is one of the best!

Vinod Kapoor is originally from Mussoorie, North India, near New Delhi and arrived in Montreal in 1969. In the late 80’s, many Indians came to establish themselves in Montreal, but very few families stayed because of the cold and the language barrier. “From the beginning, my father always made an effort to speak French and to integrate really well,” says Kabir Kapoor, Vinod’s son.

Vinod has developed a good relationship with the owner of the building where the restaurant is currently located. He gave him a chance (there were only 2 Indian restaurants in Montreal at the time) and it worked! Le Taj restaurant opened its doors in 1985 (!) on Stanley Street, in the heart of downtown Montreal. The name Taj was chosen as a tribute to the Taj Mahal, the famous marble mausoleum built by the Muslim Mughal emperor in memory of his wife. The Taj Mahal is a jewel of Mongolian architecture, a style that combines architectural elements of Islamic, Iranian, Ottoman and Indian architecture and is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Le Taj was quickly adopted by Montrealers as the first Indian restaurant for fine Indian cuisine.

The Kapoor family designed the space which is updated every decade or so. The 75 seat space is very elegant! Dark carpets on the floor, white tablecloths, white napkins, wooden chairs, white walls, delicate lamps, ornate paintings, wine cellars on the walls: the space is conducive to spending a classy evening without breaking the bank.

The chef of the establishment is Puransingh Mehra, who has been with Le Taj since 2001. “A lot of our success has to be attributed to him, he is an amazing chef and part of our family,” says Vinod Kapoor. The cuisine at Taj Restaurant is not authentic Indian cuisine, but rather cuisine adapted to North American tastes. “We really wanted to establish a link between Indian cuisine and Quebecois cuisine: there are many similarities in the use of spices, creams and oils. Our dishes are creamier, more delicious, very Montreal. They have been developed and adapted especially for the Quebecois palate. This is one of the reasons why our butter chicken has been one of the most popular dishes since we opened! We have proposed to the people here what they like the most in Indian cuisine by adapting it to the palates here.” In the evening, their menu offers a wide variety of dishes, and at lunchtime, the address is known for its buffets – among the first lunches adopted by food critic Jean-Philippe Tastet. Kabir’s favourite dishes are pepper lamb, vindaloo and sagh paneer. To accompany the cuisine at Le Taj, Kabir Kapoor has developed a wine list that features a selection of wines that pair well with the dishes and several beers.

“I’m very proud of what Le Taj has become; it’s still open after all these years and it’s accessible to everyone. We offer the buffet at lunch and a fancier meal at night.” We admire the continuity of the establishment over the years, the fact that Le Taj is still among the best Indian restaurants in Montreal more than 30 years after its opening!

Photography by Le Taj

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