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Help me introduce my 7-year-old to Indian

My 7-year-old daughter, who generally is a good and adventurous eater (by 7-year-old standards) has announced that she wants to try Indian food. Apparently she saw it on a TV show, and is particularly interested in matai, which she says is an Indian dessert. Here are my questions:

1. Where should we go? We are very close to Tantric, so that would be ideal, but I am willing to take her anywhere reasonably close, including surrounding towns -- Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Arlington, etc. -- if it makes sense to do so.

2. What should I order for her? I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Indian food; I usually order vindaloo myself, because I like the flavor and the spice, but my daughter is not indoctrinated into the world of spice yet, so I need something more tame. I was thinking tandoori and naan would be a safe bet. Any other suggestions?

3. Anyone know what matai is and where to find it?

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  1. Well, for general excellence, I like India Quality in Kenmore a lot.

    I say take your daughter there, order a vindaloo extra-hot, and just go with the flow.

    And there will be a flow, sooner or later. :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bostonbob3

      i second india quality for beginners, especially their creamy rogan josh.

      edit: oops. should have read further down...

    2. Kudos to your adventurous 7yo! I wish I'd been that gutsy.

      When I (at age 19) was first starting with Indian food, I started with Biryani, which is spiced rice (not hot). I graduated to chicken Korma and chicken Makhani, which are curries - one is tomato and cream based. Yum. Tandoori sounds good for a kid to pick at. And she can take bites of whatever the rest of the table's got - Indian's great for sharing.

      You can't go wrong with bread, of course, as a backup in case she doesn't like it.

      I guess for location, I'd pick a place located in territory that's familiar to her.

      1. You could always go to a lunch buffet and let her try all the offerings. Tell the waiter that she wanted to experience Indian food for the first time, and the kitchen might give her tastes of things not of the buffet. All the restaurants I've been to have been very gracious and helpful in teaching neophytes.

        Namaskar in Davis Square and Bombay Club in Harvard Square have enjoyable buffets. I feel like Namaskar has more attentive service, which may be useful.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pamalamb

          Yeah, a buffet is a good idea and since many places have them on the weekend too, shouldn't be a problem.

        2. I'd echo the lunch buffet rec, and nearly every place has one. Tantric actually has a great buffet, and Kashmir on Newbury St. is decent, too. Farther afield I like Kebab Factory (Cambridge/Somerville line, their buffet is HUGE) and Tanjore (Harvard Square).

          Mithai is actually a generic term for dessert/sweets. Most restaurants serve the rice pudding kheer, a good intro. Your daughter may have seen the more colorful things like gulab jamun (fried sweet dough balls), jalebi (orange pretzelly things), etc., which I think are better at Indian groceries than at restaurants. There are many Indian grocers in Central Square in Cambridge, though there are nicer/bigger grocers in the suburbs if you can get out there.

          1. Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I agree that a lunch buffet would be perfect -- maybe I'll take her to the amazing lunch buffet at the Jackson Heights Diner next time we're in NY -- I should have made it clear that this is for dinner tonight. So I think we'll hit India Quality. I'll report back later.