I have been to Tandoori Chef in Maplewood few times now and I have been to their Hackensack location quite a few times as well. It's a nice size restaurant that is a little hard to find since it is tucked away from the main street. Parking isn't the best, but still ok. Overall the food is an improvement over Sona(the previous Indian restaurant at this location). But, still not able to compete with some of the better restaurants in the area, unless they offer an enticing deal. The place is always empty with no more than 5 to 8 people eating there at any given time.
It is very difficult to choose what dishes to order since they don't offer any combination deals(I'll go into more detail below); but I have tried quite a few of their vegetarian, chicken, and lamb dishes. I was excited to taste that their dal tadka was a mix of masoor and moong dals. The palaak paneer was also tasty and I like that the palaak still had some leafy texture and it wasn't a fine watery paste drowned in heavy cream as many places do. The meats tend to be dry, but are still tasty.
The portion sizes are better for the vegetarian food than the meats since you get a lot of gravy but not a lot of actual meat.
My biggest complaint and their biggest missed opportunity is that the menu does not have any dinner thalis or simple to go dinner specials like a kati-roll, dosa with sambar, or kabobs and rice / chicken and rice. Every good restaurant in the area has dinner specials as an option. It would also ensure that I would be back once a week or so. I live in Millburn, 5 min away from Tandoori Chef; however, I'm more inclined to drive all the way to Parsippany to get Indian food from my favourite restaurants Chand Palace or Mehndi in Morristown.
I like variety, and get bored and frustrated when I'm forced to pick just 1 or 2 dishes to enjoy for dinner. My recommendation are:
-1. Non-Veg Thali: Choice of 1 meat and 2 vegetables and includes 1 yellow dal for $14.99.
-2. Veg Thali: Choice of 2 vegetables plus the dal for $9.99.
-3. Chicken&Rice / Kabobs&Rice / Dosa & Sambar / or Kati Roll for $.6.99 (Like the NYC Food Trucks)
Both Thalis would include rice, and 1/2 a naan, and raita.
It does not need to include an appetizer or dessert.
For every additional meat they could charge $4.99, and every additional vegetable could be $2.99.
They should at least offer this thali option Monday through Thursday dinner, if they don't want this option on the weekends.
They could also limit the thali selections to the most popular dishes like chicken tikka masala, palaak paneer, navratan veg korma, aloo gobi, and bhindi, etc. for economies of scale.
I hope they take my idea seriously. Otherwise for me, they can't compete with my other weekday dinner options in the area of Thai and Japanese, or Ethiopian which all offer fantastic dinner combo deals for around $15 -everyday. They are totally missing out on the sales to Seton Hall Students and young professionals who are forced to go to Neelam in South Orange for food that isn't really good.
Overall, I like going back there. But I only go with 3 or more people so that we can share the food and get some variety, and only each pay like $15.
I will be excited if my idea is taken seriously! :) I've called and given them my suggestions in person at least 3 or 4 times now, they don't seem to listen! I wonder if they even read the reviews here or on Yelp?
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