Rajni Indian cuisine: “Food is medicine, medicine is food”
PARSIPPANY – Upon arriving in Rajni for the first time, you might think you have just walked into a shop window, a local restaurant somewhere in the streets of Mumbai while picking up an order of Chicken Biriyani. Rajni could certainly be described as a low key, modest and unpretentious restaurant where one would stop for a casual and relaxing lunch or dinner alone, with family or with a group of friends. Nothing fancy, formal or elegant here, just authentic, delicious, homemade South Indian cuisine. The kind of food sought after by many discerning diners looking for that familiar taste of their home country.
Rajni opened in 2011 and offers truly authentic cuisine from the state of Tamil Nadu. Upon entering, you first encounter the shrine of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god who symbolizes wisdom, understanding and a discriminating intellect that one must possess to achieve perfection in life. A perfect symbolic introduction to the dining experience inside. The restaurant is named after a Tamil film star, producer and screenwriter, “Rajni” Kant. According to Rajni’s website, their uniqueness lies in reclaiming the flavor of home-cooked food and ambiance. They tout their faith in the three pillars of quality, affordability, and impeccable service.
You may have come across Rajni a hundred times while traveling along Route 46 and never thought of it, as it is somewhat hidden behind the small Meadow Plaza mall. Rajni does not face the highway so you will need to keep an eye out for the blue signage leading to the car park. Once there, you will find adequate off-street parking. As you stop in front of their attractive brick and glass building, you’ll see the cute little elephant in front.
As my group of foodies began to arrive, the very friendly and hospitable staff greeted us warmly. Our table was immediately set as we joked and joked around with Moses, the manager, and Yoga (Doctor) Guna, brother of owner Jey Guna, who unfortunately was unavailable on this visit. As we found our seats and perused the extensive and unfamiliar menu, we all had questions for the staff, which they were happy to politely and patiently answer.
We found the interior to be clean, organized, and surprisingly spacious; with cozy red leather booths lined along the walls and well-spaced tables covered in white plastic tablecloths arranged throughout the dining area. Offset yellow and brown wall tones, wooden tiled floors, high ceiling lined with silver metal paneling, a few Indian photos and artifacts, and a big-screen TV complete Rajni’s simple, laid-back, and warm vibe.
Large bay windows running the length of one side of the restaurant keep the interior bright and airy. A smaller secondary room is located next to the main dining room and seems perfect for a small gathering or a business meeting.
Unfortunately, the once popular buffet area along the back wall is now unused due to pandemic concerns; hopefully the sideboard will become a feature of Rajni again in the near future.
Rajni focuses on South and North Indian delicacies, with a primary focus on South Indian cuisine. They also offer Indochinese cuisine, a distinct fusion culinary style combining aspects of Indian and Chinese cuisine and flavors.
In fact, Indianized Chinese cuisine is extremely popular all over India. Spicy, rich, flavorful and diverse is how most people describe Indian cuisine, no matter what part of India we are talking about, but when I visited I was interested in exploring the southern style of cooking from India, which is much spicier than that from the north. neighbor. South Indian food is considered extremely healthy and is predominantly vegetarian, but there are plenty of non-vegetarian sides to complement your meal deliciously.
Generous use of chili and tamarind helps make Southern dishes spicy, hot and tangy. Also, rather than naan or roti, rice is highly valued in South Indian cuisine.
North Indian cuisine tends to be less spicy and uses milder to more moderate spices in its dishes. So if you are new to this style of cooking when ordering, keep in mind that the food can be quite spicy. Feel free to ask about the heat index of each dish and let your server know your heat preference. Most newbies to this cuisine, like myself, are generally much more familiar with northern style Indian cooking, which leaves the southern style largely unexplored by most, which is a shame, because Indian food consists of so much more only chicken tikka masala, vindaloo and naan.
With the help of our server’s guidance, we chose a variety of entrees to share as a group. One by one, came out the Melagai Podi Idli; (a soft and chewy steamed savory cake made with rice and lentil batter and a perfect complement to the assorted chutneys it was served with); Karimeen Tawa Fry (a whole grilled pomfret fish with onion, chilli and ginger sauce) which tasted delicious, delicate and slightly sweet with a nice texture, tender inside and crispy outside, with mild heatstroke; Fish-65 (tilapia pieces marinated with chilli paste and curry leaves) it was a crispy and tasty treat with boneless marinated fish that was fried; Onion pakora (fritters with sweet spices and served with assorted chutneys) pieces of onion breaded with spices and fried; and Chicken Chettinadu (boneless chicken cooked with special Chettinad sauces and coconut).
It was quite an interesting start to our exploration of this cuisine. The consensus of the group is that they enjoyed the interesting variety of tastes, textures and spiciness in each of the individual dishes. All dishes came with a selection of chutneys (sauces that really enhanced every bite).
Our gourmet appetites were quite satiated after our appetizers, but it was now time to order our starters. I selected, on my friend’s recommendation, Chicken Kothu Parota (a popular South Indian street food made with parotta, egg and chicken in a spicy sauce), shredded parotta into small pieces, sautéed and cooked with shredded or ground chicken and served with raita, a yogurt-based condiment to refresh the palate, as it is a spicy dish. It is definitely worth trying. This friend went with the Kothu Parota -Lamb, which he liked.
Other members of the group went with the Hyderabad Goat Dum Biriyani (spicy basmati rice cooked with goat meat, with special southern spices, then served with raitha and Rajni’s special salna sauce). It is a key dish in Hyderabadi cuisine; Lamb Tikka Masala (Lamb cooked with a creamy tomato sauce, and a slightly spicy and earthy tasting dish). Several members of the group chose the Chicken Dosa (a large, and I mean exceptionally large, flavored pancake made with fermented rice batter and black lentils and filled with vegetables, chicken, onions and crushed red pepper ). They all really enjoyed their dosas.
As there was no room for desserts, the staff were kind enough to prepare free Gulab Jamun (cheese dumplings in honey sauce), a beloved Indian dessert, to take away and enjoy at the House. There are plenty of non-alcoholic and Indian drinks on the menu too, including Madras coffee, Nilagiri tea and Lassi, but as usual since Rajni is a BYOB I brought a free drink, in this case, of Kingfisher beer, the most popular beer in India, and it paired perfectly with the spiciness of the assorted dishes.
All in all a fun, interesting and enjoyable dining experience. Tasty food, friendly and hospitable service and very reasonable prices. If you haven’t been to Rajni yet and enjoy Indian food and a comfortable, laid back atmosphere, I suggest you stop by and try them.
“Food is medicine, medicine is food” (Unavu maruntu, maruntu unavu); Dine in – Curbside Pickup – Contactless Delivery – BYOB. Off-street parking. Closed from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Extensive modern online menu. All poultry and meat products are halal. Available for on-site dosa parties and catering.
Rajni Indian is located at 296 Route 46 West, Parsippany. Phone: (973) 396-8666. Website: http://www.rajnis.com/