HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


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?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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.

            1. I agree the buffet is a good idea, I think it will go well. Alternatively, you could go (could have gone?) to Punjabi Dhaba, and get a bunch of snacks. Some pakoras, one of those giant puffed puris, a curry, some naan, some chaat, some dessert... there'd be an even wider spread than the average buffet.

              1. Bombay Classic in Arlington is good, and they have waiters who are very nice to children. My 8 year old doesn't have that wide a repertoire, but is always happy to have pappadum, naan, and mango lassi, plus the occasional spoonful of saag paneer or other entrees.

                1. Let us know how it went!

                  1. For Indian desserts I can't say enough about the rabri at Bhindi Bazaar. The food itself there is good, but not fantastic, fine for a seven year old, especially first time, avoid the buffet. Go to dinner somewhere else and stop in there for a rabri for her and a drink for yourself.

                    You could also go for a kulfi, which is an Indian ice cream, think of a heavy frappe mushed back together and then frozen. I like the one at Shanti in Dorchester, but I think they're all about the same.

                    And yes, we'd love to know how it goes!

                    1. Also, if she does like the desserts, Chai Cafe in Arlington Center (owned by the people who own Punjab) has a nice selection of desserts for takeout. My daughter was tempted by a very pink dessert, but not as thrilled by the taste!

                      1. Our son started eating Indian when he was about 2 years old. We would take him to a lunch buffet, and at that age he ate the tandoori chicken, naan, rice pilau, and for dessert, the rice pudding, which he loved. Over time, he tried the various other dishes, graduating to more spicy fare. Since he was about 8, his favorite Indian is mutter paneer (peas and cheese pieces in a creamy, mildly spiced sauce). In short, a 7 year old with an adventurous attitude should find plenty that will please her, and a buffet is certainly the best way to start -- not only because of the range of choices but because of the ability to see the food that you are selecting, unlike ordering off a menu.

                        1. My children like to eat vegetable pakora, chicken tikka masala,
                          chicken saag, alo gobi and alo mutter (?sp) and nan- we just ordered it mild when they were first trying these foods and they love to drink a mango lassi.

                          1. We went to India Quality. I enjoyed it very much, but unfortunately my daughter did not. But I think it had more to do with her mood (she is a 7-year-old after all) than anything else, so I don't think she gave it a fair shake. Unfortunately, in a situation like this you've got a let some time pass before you try again, so Indian might be out for a while.

                            As for me, I really liked India Quality a lot. I like that it's a small, neighborhood kinda place. I like that they have a great beer selection. (It seems that with a little effort, most places could have an equally good beer selection. Why is it that so few places do?) I loved the service (when the man in charge -- the owner perhaps -- observed that my daughter was not enjoying her meal, he comped us dessert, which is what my daughter really wanted in any event!). And I loved my meal of vegetable pakora and lamb vindaloo. My leftovers, and my daughter's tandoori mixed grill, are sitting in my fridge and will make a nice meal for me this week.

                            1. India Gourmet in Brookline (Coolidge Corner) is a buffet/cafeteria style restaurant with excellent "introductory" Indian foods.
                              Also, unlike most "sit-down" Indian places, there are a lot of families with children there at lunch time.
                              It is really reasonably priced (all you can eat for around $7.00) and the buffet includes a wide selection...usually salad, breads, a few small appetizers, two meat and two meatless entrees, and dessert. So, your daugher will probably find SOMETHING she likes.

                              I really love India Quality, but I can't see how it would be appealing for kids. I think a buffet is better, to offer children a choice and an opportunity to try out different things. Just my 2 cents (can't you tell I teach elementary school?!?!) :)

                              1. If you want to give it another try, I think taking her for Bengali food might not be a bad idea. Bengali food (along with Gujarati food) tend to be more sweet than spicy in comparison to most Indian regional cuisines, including the generic Punjabi-American melange which is the mainstay of most of the restaurants mentioned above. This is sometimes a source of derision by Indians from other regions. I would suggest Royal Bengal on Mass Ave near MIT.

                                Your daughter clearly has a sweet tooth, and I can see why she might not have liked a tandoori mixed grill so much (which can be an overwhelmingly salty experience). Chat with the staff about what she might like (the owners are often about, and they are friendly folks). I would suggest cholar daal, begun pora (fried eggplant), luchi (small fried breads, similar to puri) and changrir malaicurry (shrimp) or kasha mangsho (goat) - all from the Bengali menu.

                                1. I'd try her on saag (or palak) paneer, and emphasise the cheese hunks.

                                  1. Punjab Cafe, in an unlikely strip mall on Route 3A in Quincy, is well worth a detour. They have buffets on the weekend and lunch specials during the week. The atmosphere and music add to the experience, and they are sensitive to different palates.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: chowfamily

                                      I must say I'd have to agree with chowfamily -- Punjab Cafe, to date, has been the only Indian place me and my wife have frequented. We are from India and Boston, in general, has disappointed us. We avoid Indian places here and the nearest decent place where we'd occasionally go is "Kabab & Curry" @ Brown Univ/Providence. Otherwise, we satisfy our craving in NYC/NJ once or twice a year.

                                    2. pujabi dhaba in inman square is great. it's good homemade indian food. all my friends who are indian love it, they say it's like their grandma's and mother's make. it's sort of a tiny place with $4 plates, so very little ambience, but good food.

                                      as for with your daughter, i think samosas are great, who doesn't like potato? so your daughter might like to try that at some point when she's feeling up to it. cheers!

                                      1. I assume she saw 'mitthai' on the TV which is a generic name for all kinds of indian confectionary. they are generally milk based and very sweet. you can buy an assortment at most indian grocery stores. Just check that they are fresh.

                                        I tried punjabi dhaba in inman square about two years ago and did not like it. I would not start a child there. it is indian fast food at its worst (sorry)!!

                                        If she likes chicken, try the butter chicken with naan. it may show up as chicken tikka masala on the menu. my kids love it. i like masala art in needham, it is owned by the same family as bombay club in harvard square but the one in needham is nicer.
                                        alternatively the burlington mall food court has gourmet india with a choice of two or three entrees. very reasonable and not bad.

                                        1. Moody Street in Waltham has about 1/2 a dozen good Indian Restaurants, a few even have kids menu's.