I found myself in Kissimmee the other day, which isn’t nearly as sinister as it sounds. I mean, it’s not like I was hit over the head and thrown into a trunk of a car and woke up alongside US 192. There was no trunk involved.
But as I came to, I saw a new restaurant called Ataj Indian Cuisine. I dusted myself off and went inside.
Now, there’s no reason for us to get into a discussion of preconceived notions for restaurants in this part of town. Let’s just say that a disappointing number of businesses seem to ascribe to the theory that they don’t really need to try very hard to impress customers because, being in a tourist-dominated area, a new wave of customers comes in every week. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.
Happily, I did not get that feeling from Ataj. The place was fresh, clean and comfortable, and the staff were all welcoming.
Since it was lunchtime at an Indian restaurant, that of course meant that a buffet was offered. But instead of long row of confusing items, Ataj offered a thoughtful and more compact array.
And it was all good. And even better — the spicing was appropriate, hot where it needed to be hot and multilayered and complex throughout. Some of the dishes included Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Goat Biriyani, Paneer Korma and Cabbage Poryial.
Those last two are good vegetarian options, and cabbage poriyal is often made to vegan standards. And while I usually prefer some meat in my dishes, the Paneer Korma was one of my favorites that I sampled here. The gravy was smooth and rich and the cubes of Indian style cottage cheese had their own bit of meaty chew.
I also liked the goat biriyani, and I appreciated that they called it goat and not mutton.
By the way, the buffet table, which was set up in front of a bar with a beautiful alabaster top, was well tended and kept neat and presentable.
After I had been seated, I was presented with a basket of hot naan, buttery and soft but with a bit of a crisp edge from the oven. Delicious with the mint chutney. (Be sure to have some of the assorted pickles, too — very hot!)
Ataj is very close to the I-4 exit, so those of you with an aversion to the more touristy stretch of the road don’t have to go too far in. Just ask your kidnappers to drop you off in the same plaza where Charly’s Steakhouse is located.
Ataj Indian Cuisine is at 2901 Parkway Blvd., Kissimmee. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The website that the restaurant has listed on its menu does not work. The phone number is 407-507-0072.