Yet another mediocre, depressingly-decorated, buffet-serving North Indian restaurant. I don't understand why North Indian restaurants all look the same and all serve the exact same mind-numbingly mundane and heavy, oily dishes.
As the child of Indian immigrants, I grew up with Indian food, albeit South Indian cuisine. That said, I am extensively familiar with North Indian fare as well, especially after living in India for a year after college.
After explaining my vegan requirements my waiter suggested the aloo gobi, a classic North Indian dish. The service was friendly and prompt. The vegetarian section of the menu seemed to be mostly lacto-vegetarian so make sure to ask for a dish that doesn't have ghee, butter, cream or yogurt in the sauce.
The food was passable at best. Like most other North Indian restaurants I've been to in the US, this one served up a copper bowl filled with a heavy, thick curry sauce with a flavor that sledgehammers you over the head. No subtlety in this dish. It was a bit too salty and citric for my likes, and the potato and cauliflower were cut in excessively large sizes, which also seems to be standard practice at North Indian joints. Also, the tandoori roti was too thick. Delicacy, attention to detail and understatement are generally not to be found at North Indian restaurants.
The prices are reasonable though it's depressing to be in the restaurant with its tacky decor and slightly run-down feel. I was hoping for some creativity in the food, something unique, a touch of home-cooked goodness, but did not find it here.
If you want innovative, fresh, light, simple and tasty food that's Indian-esque, go a few blocks down the street to The Himalayan or to Namaste Cafe on Hennepin Avenue. If you want quality vegan Indian food, check out The Vegetarian or Nala Pak, both on Central Avenue NE, and both of which are 100% vegetarian and clearly label their menus to show what's vegan. You don't have to play the "non-dairy" game at those places, unlike Raja's Mahal.
All in all, Raja's Mahal is a disappointment. I give them two stars only because the service was friendly and the food wasn't completely horrendous (but wasn't good either).