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Indian -- Tanjore

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Tanjore is a fairly recent offshoot of the Rangoli Indian Restaurant in Brighton. My wife and I ate there last night. The cuisine is varied and many dishes are identified as to the Indian region they come from.

First though -let me mention that I lived for a few years in London England and explored Indian cuisine there. Later I lived with a cook who taught me how to male Indian dishes. My best friend married an Indian woman and she home cooks - and my best female friend is a native of Bengal.
I like to cook Indian at home and do not rely on commercial preparations for curries, etc. I make my own garam masala and have several variations of this spice mixture. I like to make Vindaloo - a hot dish from Southern India (Goa).

Since the Tanjore features Vindaloo we ordered the chicken version. My wife had a dish from Kerala called Malabar Masala. We had a Peshawari Nan (bread with nuts and raisins), salted Lassi (yogurt drink), and a side dish of mango chutney. The plates were served with basmati rice and the table had a condiment tray with Mint chutney and chopped onions in a hot sauce.
The Vindaloo was good -but not like homemade. It got my nose running -as it is supposed to. The Malabar dish was also good -the lamb was very tender and tasty and the rich brown sauce had a different flavor than we are used to. The Nan was superior to most -the mango chutney appeared to be homemade and was excellent. Our Lassi was very salty and creamy. I prefer the yogurt drink at the Shawarma King in Coolige Corner - but this was pretty good.
We have eaten at the Tanjore previously and the dishes are superior to most other Indian restaurants we have explored. They do a good buffet for lunch - as does the Bombay Club around the corner. If you eat at any Indian buffet ignore the obligatory Tandoori Chicken -it is ALWAYS dry and doesn't have the rich taste it should have. I stick to the sauce dishes -the Saag (spinach) - lentils -the chicken curries - potatoes and peas -the cauliflower -etc.

The Tanjore has a fascinating menu - some of listings are as follows -
Balti Chicken from Kashmir - Chicken Chetinad from South India --- Keema Kothmir from Hyderabad --- Shrimp No Paatio from Bombay. -Gobi Charchari from Bengal --- Aloo Chole from Sindhi.

One different listing is for Nashta -a sort of Indian tapas -smaller dishes of great variety. Tanjore has a long list. They also specialize in Dosas -Indian stuffed crepes.

The prices are in line with most Indian restaurants.
We walked around a cold and quiet Harvard Square after our meal -happy as two kids who had spent an hour in India.

Tanjore is located just off Harvard Square next to the Kennedy School. The address is 18 Eliot Street, Cambridge 617/868-1900. They do take-outs and deliver for free around the Harvard Square area. The staff is attentive -and when they sent us a plain Nan instead of the nut filled version, they told us to enjoy it and then brought us the version we asked for a few minutes later - gratis. The decor is nice -wooden (teak?) carvings and unique tapestries.

However - the food is the main attraction and Tanjore is a find for those who love good Indian cuisine.

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  1. glad you had a good time, tord. fyi, 'tanjore' is the british bastardisation of 'thanjavur', a city in tamil nadu. it became famous as a restaurant name when the the taj group of hotels opened a 'tanjore' in the bombay taj. at the time, it was unique in that it was a very upscale 'ethnic' restaurant, but i think they went a little overboard in the silliness: you had to suffer south indian classical dance with your meal if you went for dinner. i honestly think that the management was surprised that it did reasonably well with the indians, given that they aimed it squarely at the tourist trade.

    you know, i rant about indian restaurants serving up the same tired punjabi/mughlai menu every single time - it is really stupendous, this lack of originality, given that there is an infinitely diverse cuisine to choose from. but now the sheer diversity of dishes offered up by your tanjore worries me. for example, 'shrimp no paatio' is a parsi dish, and parsi dishes are notoriously tough for non-parsis to get right - there are a 100,000 parsis left in this world and the tricks of their cuisine aren't as well known as others. i hope i'm wrong, but i'm afraid the odds are that they do a few dishes well and the rest they wing.

    just to continue being curmudgeonly this morning, heres another rant: is mutton really that hard to find here in the land of the free? lamb just doesn't cut it in indian recipes! i know of several enterprising muslims who get mutton: theres a farm over in new jersey that sells the animal to be killed halal style - and the farm will let the lambs grow older if thats what you wish. but serving lamb in place of mutton ALWAYS hits the wrong note in indian recipes!

    4 Replies
    1. re: howler

      "howler" wrote
      "you know, I rant about Indian restaurants serving up the same tired punjabi/mughlai menu every single time - it is really stupendous, this lack of originality, given that there is an infinitely diverse cuisine to choose from. but now the sheer diversity of dishes offered up by your tanjore worries me. for example, 'shrimp no paatio' is a parsi dish, and parsi dishes are notoriously tough for non-parsis to get right - there are a 100,000 parsis left in this world and the tricks of their cuisine aren't as well known as others. i hope i'm wrong, but i'm afraid the odds are that they do a few dishes well and the rest they wing.

      ------- Reply ----------
      The answer to that would be to try the dish and see if it works for you. I seldom order ANY shrimp dish at any restaurant because it seems that none of them care about having their shrimp taste like shrimp ought to taste. Tanjore is across the street from the Harvard Kennedy School and has an Indian clientele --- which might help keep them honest..
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      just to continue being curmudgeonly this morning, heres another rant: is mutton really that hard to find here in the land of the free? lamb just doesn't cut it in indian recipes! i know of several enterprising muslims who get mutton: theres a farm over in new jersey that sells the animal to be killed halal style - and the farm will let the lambs grow older if thats what you wish. but serving lamb in place of mutton ALWAYS hits the wrong note in indian recipes!
      -------- Reply -----------
      We can get mutton in Boston at several ethnic chop-shops. It is generally not seen on restaurant menus - nor are free-range chickens - or wild pig meat. I usually make my own Vindaloo with pork.You don't see that in Indian restaurants either :-) I know I should use wild pig but my wild pig guy got busted up by his herd and hasn't been heard from in a while.

      What you appear to be claiming is that almost all Indian restaurants everywhere are remiss in serving lamb instead of mutton. I wonder why all these Indian folk eat at them? They must be used to having their cuisine adulterated by their fellow Indians. Its probably the same with the Chinese restaurants who serve lamb -and the Middle Eastern places -etc. .
      Tord

      1. re: Tord Svenson

        perhaps the point (deservedly) got lost in my post, but the menu you describe for tanjore would be hard put to do well in india, leave alone boston. i have no idea how to judge a kashmiri dish, while most delhiites would have no idea about staple parsi fare. its the sheer diversity of the menu that leaves one a little bewildered (what sort of restaurant is this) and mostly skeptical (do you seriously claim to know how to make great dosaas, kasmiri chicken AND shrimp no paatio).

        to put it in perspective, its a little like finding chow-fun, beef wellington and paella on the same menu.

        "The answer to that would be to try the dish and see if it works for you"

        then why claim to have a familiarity with indian cooking in the first place? theres plenty of dishes in jaiya-thai that work for me but probably have nothing to do with thailand.

        "What you appear to be claiming is that almost all Indian restaurants everywhere are remiss in serving lamb instead of mutton."

        i thought that perfectly clear. no appearances, that IS what i am claiming.

        "I wonder why all these Indian folk eat at them? They must be used to having their cuisine adulterated by their fellow Indians."

        whats offered on the menu at a typical meat serving indian restaurant is what us indians would consider restaurant food. we eat it infrequently anyway. the threat to our cuisine is therefore non-existent.

        1. re: howler

          Howler said
          "perhaps the point (deservedly) got lost in my post, but the menu you describe for tanjore would be hard put to do well in india, leave alone boston." II have no idea how to judge a kashmiri dish, while most delhiites would have no idea about staple parsi fare. its the sheer diversity of the menu that leaves one a little bewildered (what sort of restaurant is this) and mostly skeptical (do you seriously claim to know how to make great dosaas, kasmiri chicken AND shrimp no paatio).
          -------- Reply ----------
          Americans are often capable of tasting the difference between regional foods in our country. I lived for a few years in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Southern California. I tasted the difference between the great varieties of Mexican influenced cuisines. Indeed - the TV chefs are exhorting the stay at home Americans to prepare authentic regional dishes at home -and the food industry is busy trying to provide us with the foodstuffs to accomplish this dream. Writers like the Sterns are encouraging their road oriented countrymen to stop and taste the bounty they are driving through. You do not have to be an expert on the quality of beef to know that McDonalds is not worth the powder to blow it to hell.
          A restaurant such as the Tanjore may have a staff of Indian cooks with representatives from these regions you speak of. The waitstaff were all Indians. I didn't go into the kitchen.
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          to put it in perspective, its a little like finding chow-fun, beef wellington and paella on the same menu.
          ------ Reply -----------
          That is what some hi-class places are doing. I happen to not have the money to eat there. I'm trying to find Scandinavian food in Boston -it appears to have gone extinct since I was a child.
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          "The answer to that would be to try the dish and see if it works for you"

          then why claim to have a familiarity with indian cooking in the first place? theres plenty of dishes in jaiya-thai that work for me but probably have nothing to do with thailand.
          ------- Reply ---------
          You don't have to be a chicken to know a rotten egg. Many Boston Indian restaurants are like the ubiquitous Chinese storefronts that are everywhere selling sweet and sour and canned noodle dishes. Finding an Indian restaurant that appears to care about the taste of their food is a happy circumstance.
          I got my familiarity with Indian food in London and in the kitchens of Indian friends - not India. If that's a sin ---so be it. People can go to the Tanjore and see if it is "better" than the Indian restaurants that they have been eating at. Or -perhaps -find a new taste in a dish with mostly familiar ingredients. That's what this list is about.
          I went to Europe in 1964 and ate as varied a cuisine as I could. When I settled in Paris in the 70s I discovered that the city was full of regional restaurants supported by people from the regions that were represented. One night I could eat food from Alsace -the next I was in Canne. or Marseilles. Once a week I went to a restaurant called Le Modelle - the waiter befriended me and guided me through his menu and the ever-changing daily specials. He showed me the location on the ceiling and wall where the Germans shot the place up (they kept the holes). I asked him what his attitude towards the Germans was then. He said, "We taught them how to eat!" He did the same for me.

          The modern means of airfreighting foodstuffs make it easy. Was the choucroute in Paris at the Eastern railroad station restaurant as good as that in Colmar -no - but it was close to the taste. People from Colmar and Strasbourg ate there with out complaint.

          Boston attracts ethnic groups who support cuisines they are familiar with. In my neighborhood we have many SE Asian peoples. I eat their foods. Next to them are people from Cape Verde - I go to their kitchens and they feed me what they eat. The Irish are all around - people say that they lack a cuisine. I'm looking. I've been looking for fifty years. Guinness is good. The Swedes of my childhood are mostly dead. We became Americans as quickly as possible and the stores selling Gjetost and Vortlimpa disappeared.
          Boston has Island folk - West Indians, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, etc. I have a stash of Rican pastelles in my holiday refrigerator. In Brighton there are Russians and Polish people -people from Latvia and Estonia. There are French Canadians and South American peoples. The North End is mostly Italian. Watertown has Iranian people -and Greeks. The Jews are in Newton and Brookline. Roxbury is African American with good soul food here and there. Boston University attracts students from Singapore -so we had one Singaporean restaurant that found its place for a few years but was in a deadly location - as is a fine Moroccan store front place that can't survive much longer where it is.
          Living in a city with doors open to immigration (as is NYC) is a food-lover's dream -not a nightmare.
          ---------------------
          "What you appear to be claiming is that almost all Indian restaurants everywhere are remiss in serving lamb instead of mutton."
          i thought that perfectly clear. no appearances, that IS what i am claiming.
          "I wonder why all these Indian folk eat at them? They must be used to having their cuisine adulterated by their fellow Indians."
          whats offered on the menu at a typical meat serving indian restaurant is what us indians would consider restaurant food. we eat it infrequently anyway. the threat to our cuisine is therefore non-existent.
          ------ Reply ------------
          When I was a kid I was told to eat in the places where the Chinese eat -not where there are white faces. It worked then and it appears to work now. You are right that the vindaloo sold by the Tanjore is not the same as the vindaloo I was taught to make by my Indian friends -but the Tanjore's is close enough to make me happy -and to make a mostly Indian clientele happy on the night my wife and I dined there.

          All of us have an untold potential to expand our taste consciousness. The world is full of surprises and good things to eat. Friends we do not know yet are about to turn us on to tastes we can not imagine. That is the idea about this list. Your insistence on mutton as the base for Indian lamb dishes is worthy --- I'll talk to the manager at the Tanjore and ask him if they can include one or two and see how they impact the people who will eat them. I'll make a mutton vindaloo next time (instead of pork).
          Thanks
          Tord

          1. re: Tord Svenson

            Tord mentioned that he was looking for Scandinavian food in Boston. Alhough Maison Robert is a French restaurant, the co-owner, Ann Robert, is of Norwegian descent, and for some years has offered Scandinavian dinners from time to time. She recently visited Scandinavia, met young chefs, and has incorporated some of their ideas in the special menus. I enjoyed two such meals that were prepared for a group of culinary professionals. (I could have eaten a vat of the red cabbage.) This may not be what Tord had in mind, but others might want to try it. I don't know the dates, but there is usually one on a Friday night in January, with music and folk dancing. Phone:617-227-3370

            Last year's January menu included Bergen fish soup, roast venison, mashed potato cake, and a dessert.

    2. s
      Seth Ditchik

      Had some pre-millenial chow at Tanjore during buffet; the food was okay, but rather towards the sweet side. For my money, buffet is much better at Himaliya, on Mass Ave. between Newbury and Comm Ave.--much more agressively and interestingly spiced.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Seth Ditchik
        t
        Tord Svenson

        The strip on Mass Ave. between Newbury and the MIT Bridge has several Indian restaurants which I have tried in vain. The Himalaya is recent -- I've read the reviews and wanted to try it. Thanks for the recommendation. Did they have that awful Tandoori Chicken that most Indian buffets offer ? I am baffled how chicken can be spoiled that badly. :-)

        The Himalaya is kitty-corner to the Hynes Auditorium T stop and Tower Records. ( used to be my Mechanics Hall stop back when I was going to High School at Boston Tech on St Botolphe St.) In those days the area where the Prudential is now was a vast railroad yard. We were amazed when they built the old Hancock Building with its weather lights --before that the tallest building in Boston was the Custom House Tower. Nice to think about in this new millennium.
        Tord

        1. re: Tord Svenson
          s
          Seth Ditchik

          They do have Tandoori Chicken on their buffet; it's not half bad but certainly not the best thing on the menu. They also have a Murgh Tikka-type dish, chicken in some sort of creamy tomato-based curry, that's a better chicken choice. But hey, it's buffet, why not try both?

          If some people have their way, Himaliya will be even closer to another high-rise--the Millennium Tower, which is supposed to rise 51 stories over the Mass Pike at Mass Ave. Maybe they should call it the Mass Tower.