Cafe Raj doesn’t quite cut it

cafe raj
front: George’s goat dish; back: Dave’s butter chicken
Dave and his lassi

Last week George, Dave, and I made our way to Café Raj at 1158 Solano Ave. in Albany, which specializes in North Indian and Pakistani cuisine. The atmosphere is casual but nice, and they have a fairly extensive menu, though they don’t offer any lunch specials.

Dave was intrigued by the variety of lassi available. (Is the plural of lassi “lassis”?) He asked if he could have a taste of the mint-cumin lassi before committing to a whole glass, but the waitperson said because they have to make each one individually, getting a taste was out of the question. Dave was feeling adventurous, but I doubt he will ever make that particular mistake again. The lassi was salty and had little other flavor. I couldn’t even taste the yogurt.

cafe raj poem
Cafe Raj decor

While we waited for our food, I spied an unusual item tacked on the wall near our table. At closer inspection, it appeared to be a poem and a picture. I don’t know the significance of either one, and I forgot to ask about them. But if you find out, let me know. There must be some story there.

The appetizer we ordered to share was an order of onion bajias, described as “Indian-spiced onion rings,” which piqued my interest. Twenty minutes after we ordered, something akin to onion pakora arrived. To be clear, I love pakora and I love onion rings. But I did not like these. Dave and George ate them though.

George rather liked his goat dish, but neither Dave nor I were terribly impressed with our entrees. Dave asked for his butter chicken to be medium spicy, but it had no heat at all. My ground beef and potato aloo keema were dry and bland. And I did not let myself be swayed by their less-than-appetizing appearance, which, because of their log shape, looked a bit too much like something a small dog might leave behind.

my entrée

I couldn’t get the attention of the waitstaff to replenish my water glass either. Dave finally had to call rather loudly in the direction of the kitchen to get someone’s attention. Of course he had to wait until the obnoxious phone stopped ringing to be heard. (The ring itself was jarring enough, but they could have at least  adjusted the volume so it didn’t blast customers’ eardrums.)

I can’t really recommend Café Raj.

On a positive note, we were provided with a large amount of rice that was perfectly good, so I packaged it up to take home. The next day I had it with some yummy leftover chicken from House of Curries for lunch. So it wasn’t all bad…


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