Sai Guntaka, the manager of Taj Indian Cuisine, works with Nithin Kumer, center, and Hikari Ihira, to put together to-go orders at the South Portland restaurant in 2021, when it was only open for takeout because of the pandemic. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Popular South Portland restaurant Taj Indian Cuisine plans to move this spring into a larger space in the Shops at Clarks Pond, just behind its current location on Gorham Road, in hopes of cutting down on long wait times.

Taj owner Sai Guntaka said he expects Taj Bar & Kitchen to open in May at 333 Clarks Pond Parkway, a former Jenny Craig Weight Loss Center. The new restaurant will be about 4,200 square feet, including a 2,200-square-foot kitchen, a much roomier space than Taj’s current restaurant, which has 1,300 square feet total. That restaurant would then close in June.

Guntaka said Taj Bar & Kitchen will have table seats for about 70 customers, along with 11 seats at the bar. He said the space could accommodate as many as 100 customers, but they decided against maxing out the capacity.

“We didn’t want to go too big on the seating, because too big means problems,” he said. “Customer service is very important to us, and we want to make sure to go with less seating so we can pay better attention to the service.”

Mohamed Khaire of South Portland picks up an order at Taj Indian Cuisine in 2021, when it was closed to dine-in customers because of the pandemic. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Guntaka said on busy nights at Taj, it can take up to two hours for to-go orders to be ready and 45 minutes for some dine-in meals. He expects the larger, more modern kitchen to create a more efficient workflow for back-of-house staff, eliminating those long wait times.

The food at Taj Bar & Kitchen will be similar to the menu at the original location, and Guntaka said his parents will be there cooking family recipes just as they do at the Gorham Road restaurant. Guntaka said he also collected cocktail recipes on a recent trip to India to implement an Indian cocktail program at the new restaurant, noting that Jim Baldi of the Wharf Street cocktail bar Bar of Chocolate is his consulting director for the new program.

“I just want to people to come out more for (in-house) dining and to have a very good dining experience,” Guntaka said, “and we’re trying to make it modern so people can have more date nights in my restaurant.”

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