Spending a decent chunk of money to dine inside a restaurant should be a fun experience, not just feeding yourself. This thesis, which I believe in, makes New Taj Mahal's flavorful food OK for take-out.

Spending a decent chunk of money to dine inside a restaurant should be a fun experience, not just feeding yourself. This thesis, which I believe in, makes New Taj Mahal's flavorful food OK for take-out.

And New Taj Mahal's spicy-dish-loaded $8 weekday buffet (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) makes a great-deal-destination for lunch near the Ohio State campus. But evening-time dining at this new Indian eatery is like riding inside a funky elevator: expect delays plus unpredictable ups and downs.

Assuming the former Blue Nile/Cafe International spot about two months ago, New Taj Mahal shares owners with Curry and Sweets (which replaced Sher-E-Punjab in the Kenny Centre Mall), but not with the original Columbus Taj Mahal.

Apart from strands of LED lights shifting colors every other second in a High Street window, it's spartan. There's not much to look at except fake flowers and a perplexingly huge menu. When Bollywood-type music plays - sometimes it doesn't - it helps drown out obstreperously ringing telephones handling delivery orders.

Suppers begin with complimentary papadums whisked out by a well-intentioned staff. On multiple visits, mine weren't crisp.

With such inauspicious starts, I was pleasantly surprised how thick, refreshing and tangy my Mango Lassi ($3) was. A tart yogurt smoothie that in many restaurants is thin and dilute, this one's a winner. Since there's no Indian (or otherwise) beer here, it's also your best palate-cooling pal for spicy dinners.

The Vegetarian Platter ($8) is a solid starter - unless you're vegetarian. See, my crispy and not-too-greasy assembly of zesty-battered-and-fried things mistakenly included chicken bits. I'm an omnivore, so I didn't panic, but that's a major no-no.

Staring down 129 items on the mind-bending menu, I tried another sampler-type dish for exploratory purposes. My sharable-sized Tandoori Mixed Grill entree ($18) featured tongue-tingling kebabs (tender chicken tikka, uncommonly flavorful tandoori chicken, tandoori-spiced lamb chunks), but it had issues.

While I explained it was missing several components to my waiter, the dish's blistering onions and peppers - it's served like fajitas on a sizzling platter - began to carbonize to black. When my MIA kebabs of pleasantly salty shrimp and tender ground lamb (with mint, onion and jalapeno) finally arrived, dinner had begun to unduly drag on. And my promised naan (which would eventually be nicely toasted and puffy) still hadn't been delivered.

Things went smoother another evening. Following my waiter's advice, I got an enormous bowl of Lamb Biryani ($15) in timely fashion. Complexly spiced and brimming with (mostly) tender meat, the saffron-yellow basmati rice dish outclassed many competitors. On the downside, its (understandably) unremoved flavoring agents made it a minefield of inedible aromatics like cinnamon bark, whole cloves, bay leaf, cardamom pods and (not understandable) a stone fruit pit.

From the copious curries dotting the encyclopedic menu, I tried the Chicken Vindaloo ($12). Plenty of tender meat plus the requisite potatoes were swamped in a tawny-colored, spicy and creamy gravy popping with cloves, cinnamon and the expected vinegar. While not particularly distinguished, it was enjoyable.

Another irresistible curry, Kadai Chicken ($13), featured plenty of tender meat swamped in a tawny-colored, spicy and creamy gravy popping with cloves, cinnamon and the expected tomatoes. Sound familiar?

Not only was that Kadai shy on tomatoes for its curry style, but it betrayed a sameness of cooking technique. However, if New Taj Mahal's flavors occasionally come off as a one-trick pony, they can still provide an enjoyable ride.

And I appreciated the little-goes-a-long-way perks I received for the various blunders. Plus, New Taj Mahal makes a pleasing and soothing Rasmalai for dessert (cottage cheesy dumpling dunked in sweet cream, $3). I'd only advise you look for it on the buffet - or get it to go.