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Sep 8, 2010 10:05 AM

D'Guru Indian review

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There's two ways to view D'Guru. One is to see independent Indian blow up the downtown spot full of bad delis and other grossities for Boston office workers gulping low octane fuel. The other as an extension from a remarkable catering business cum retail outlet in the far reaches of Somerville (Tufts) made good by their unbelieve fresh ingredients (Afforded by the high volume and turnover by their catering business no doubt that was a hard but successful sell to the Tufts community.), healthy high-qual cooking (Better than most Indian home cooks.) and low-price, simple yet varied menu. (Constantly changing 5-6 dishes daily.)

Both are true of course, and whether you are in the camp of newcomer or frequent customer to Guru, it is joy that we find D'Guru in the heart of Boston. It's a rather American-Indian small-business success story that one of the tiniest most hidden restaurants in Somerville can expand to downtown and thrive. There are reasons why Guru dominated the "Hot On Yelp" boards last year. This is easily the best lunch option to open since Chacarero, a decade or so ago, but more versatile.

Guru's Palak Paneer is a wunderdish. After pondering how you can get spinach to stay so green, and reading about shock ice-baths, shock therapy, lemon juice, ju-ju juice, sugar tricks, large pots of boiling water and salt and even reviewing notes on carbon dioxide release in chlorophyl, (magic unto itself) I still just don't get it how it's so green at D'Guru. The color is indescribable, and oh so pretty. Not even $10,000 emeralds are this nice a color. Ya got me beat Pushpinder, just gunna have to plain ole ask ya straight out when we build a little trust. Your recipe online hah, that's not even close. It has the most wonderful paneer, so soft not dry and hard, just perfs textured farm-style cheese that would be the envy of any firm tofu or mozzarella maker. A very mild heat is provided by subtle dried whole chilies which would of been chewed on had I been aware, but being pre-occupied with work back at the office... And that is a shame because it was the best Palak Paneer ever, even if it wasn't hot.

Also just loved the special of Salmon Curry. Fish is a welcome addition to Guru's repertoire. Whole black mustard seeds and curry leaves and salmon bathing in a better-than-breaking-kosher-milk-and-fish-code coconut milk sauce. While the seafood option is the most expensive option at 10 something, (Eh, 10 is the new 5.) it's basically getting delicious salmon for 10 bucks plus this amazing spinach for free. Maybe not localvore but certainly quality ingredients at a good price. They have an excellent business model, and cookery far out-pacing the competition.

The dealbreaker with most pre-cooked Indian is rice. Guru's is better than all Indian buffets around town. Must study it more closely but certainly the almond-sliver shaped rice is moist and well-cooked, not grainy and dried out like most places. Certainly, like their Palak, they've thought long-grain and hard-rain what goes into that rice cooker and came out with something Jiminy Cricket. Got a hunch, but really, gotta go back. Repeatedly. Dislike plastic dishes! Revive Tiffin Boxes so plastic doesn't land in trash! And that is the worst part about lunch. Waste in our harried pace of life.

The Naan is well, it really does resemble Greek-style pita, but certainly tasty, good bread if you have take it to the office, doesn't flake out and leave thousands of crumbs in your keyboard like normal naan. Anyway it's a freebie.

It is a lot of food honestly, this doesn't necessarily improve the excellent value proposition, I'd pay the same for half the food almost, it's just really that good and maybe you can portion into two if you are on a diet or something. Split it with an office mate? Dunno lick it off your office mate during boring sexual harassment trainings?

D'Guru Restaurant
185 Devonshire St, Boston, MA 02110

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  1. "Dunno lick it off your office mate during boring sexual harassment trainings?" - #FAIL#

    Ha - thanks for the review. The Somerville location elicits a similar response from me - it kinda blows the stock Indian buffet places out into space, along with my English fluency. It's a nice effect.

    1. I tried D'Guru for the first time today. Overall, extremely pleased.

      I had a combo featuring lamb curry and zucchini masala, served with a LOT of rice (too much), and a couple of pieces of naan-like bread. Adequate-to-huge on the portion size scale; I'm quite full.

      The lamb was tender and the sauce flavorful, without being overly salty. It was obviously prepared the proper way, using whole spices and a long braise, as become apparent when I unfortunately bit into an entire cardamom pod that had interestingly tenderized to the point where it was ALMOST totally edible -- but not quite. This was the only downside to an otherwise surprisingly good dish -- my expectations were low going in, and were far surpassed.

      Even better than the lamb was the zucchini, which tasted extremely fresh and was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was cooked with onion and tomato, and was lightly spiced and slightly spicy. Really a perfect dish for this time of year and one I hope to get again from D'Guru.

      The rice was, well, rice. Typical Indian restaurant-style rice. Nothing to write home about, a relatively good accompaniment for the curry.

      The bread is my only complaint. As Tatsu mentioned, it's closer to pita bread than naan. The bread I received was also a bit on the greasy side for my taste. It did the job, giving me something with which to pick up the food, but fell quite short of the mark compared with the other components of the meal.

      Assuming that the quality is similar on future visits, I expect to return to D'Guru many, many times. Fantastic addition to the neighborhood.

      D'Guru Restaurant
      185 Devonshire St, Boston, MA 02110

      1. Nice review. I LOVE that palak paneer, but a good friend of mine who actually knows what he's talking about isn't the biggest fan. Hopefully he'll chime in.

        At the Somerville outpost they serve the meals with a greasy (in a good way) paratha and that very good rice. And usually pushpinder will give me a taste of something or other he's working on (tried the salmon curry this way).

        Nothing I've had has been very hot (spice level) but that's okay cuz I'm not into that particular endorphin rush.

        20 Replies
        1. re: yumyum

          Curious what he has to say, yea I am not sure what the bread is, roti? Paratha? it doesn't even resemble naan, so I don't know why i said that even tho everyone else thinks it's naan.

          1. re: tatsu

            He will say something about "baby food" ... mark my words.

            Some yelpers think it's roti, but I stand by my paratha until the Guru himself tells me otherwise. And then gives me a little snack from the kitchen.

            1. re: tatsu

              I'm pretty sure it's a standard chapati (flour + water), one of the staple Punjabi starches.

              Yumyum is correct as well - it's also technically a roti (roti = bread in general).

              1. re: Prav

                Skooled again. But it's greasy ... cooked on a greased pan?

                And also, what do you think of the palak paneer? ;-)

                    1. re: Prav

                      I mean, shoot, I'll still eat it. I do like the flavor. Just not a huge fan of the spirulina-wheatgrass-drank texture. I guess I like my saag textured.

                      1. re: Prav

                        I love texture but after thinking about it, I like this way. Cooked warm spinach can get sorta slimy (like a not so great spinach pie) but blending it into a billion particles gets rid of that. (I like Oshitashi as a spinach prep, doesn't get more pure in terms of texture.) The texture of the paneer makes up for any lack of spinach texture for me. That is some awesome paneer. Let's face it Indian food is not the most visually (except the colors sometimes) or texturally fascinating foods, but it's delicious and I'm willing to concede "points" there just like many of us forgive terse service at Chinese places.

                        As for the bread, I really don't know what it is. It's a bit embarrassing we are all grasping, but I'd knock chapati off the list first, it's just too thick.

                        I looked at this and still can't decide. I would just call it a thick roti with lots of ghee or oil to make it soft. It's probably something he's playing with. It may be a paratha but I asked a Kasmiri friend today and he said Paratha is always cooked in pan, usually triangular and usually stuffed with something.


                        There's got to be nearly 100 or so styles of bread but I bet a few overlap because of different names in different languages. Interestingly, I learned saag and palak are not the same, saag means greens while palak is exclusively spinach, a subset of saag.

                        Which goes to show I know nothing about Indian food, even tho I like it very much.

                        1. re: tatsu

                          Tatsu, your reviews are really growing on me. Funny and informative and most importantly enthusiastic.

                          The bread: I don't know about D'Guru since I have not tried it yet but at Guru the Caterer it is undeniably chappatis. All my grandmas and aunties make it that way. Purists use just chappati flour but a mixture of chappati flour and white cake flour is my aunt's trick. (Add water and a tablespoon of oil and I like a little salt) I knead the dough, I let it rest, I roll it out and I throw it on my pan I usually use for pancakes (no oil on the pan) When it starts to bubble and dry out on the edges I flip it directly onto an open flame on my gas range. It puffs up. I take it off and my husband butters it. (that's why its greasy, yumyum) It works best as a two person operation. The hardest part is stopping the rest of your family from eating them before you are done cooking.

                          My family is from Goa so we call it chappati there but I think folks might referred to it as "roti" in other parts of India. In contrast, paratha and naan are totally different kinds of bread (and we just don't eat them in Goa)

                          Guru the Caterer
                          1297 Broadway, Somerville, MA

                          D'Guru Restaurant
                          185 Devonshire St, Boston, MA 02110

                          1. re: heypielady

                            Yes! I was sure the Guru The Caterer bread was chappati. I didn't realize the new D'guru place had different bread.

                            Now I must go try. :)

                            And thanks for your lovely description of making chappati, Heypielady. :) I've got an unopened sack of atta / chappati flour I've been meaning to try.

                            1. re: heypielady

                              Well thank you very much heypielady, and thank you for this very descriptive recipe!

                              Is there a name for this extremely flat bread, tortilla thin, I bought at Patel Brothers recently? It had some herbs in it and was slightly yellow from tumeric I assume.

                              1. re: tatsu

                                Prav, if you give it a try, the texture of the dough should be soft and supple but just dry enough so its not sticking to your hands. Like making pancakes, don't be discouraged if the first few are duds.

                                Tatsu, the bread you are describing sound like poppadams (sp?). They are very thin and brittle with a savory yummy taste. There is also another kind of bread called puri that is like a chapati but fried in oil and retains its puffed shape. A long time ago on a family trip to India I remember street venders at the New Delhi train station frying puri right there. It looked and smelled amazing but my dad had a strict "no street food" rule for our fragile American stomaches so I can only fantasize.

                                1. re: tatsu

                                  "Exttremely flat bread, tortilla thin"

                                  Made with whole wheat flour, with a texture kind of like a tortilla (maybe a bit softer)? That's what I usually receive when I order chapati in a restaurant... Not sure if that's what it's actually supposed to taste like, but it's always enjoyable.

                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                    Ha ha I read "tortilla thin" as "tortilla chip"...or maybe I just wanted to talk about the wonderful variety of indian breads.

                                    Yes, a chapati is pretty similar to a flour tortilla except that it's whole wheat. I once made (on an open fire!) a huge batch of chapati's for a group of friends in Ecuador and they wouldn't stop calling it a tortilla. They are so similar that I didn't bother to correct them.

                                    Notice I didn't mention my mom making chapatis in my previous email. Growing up she often served grocery store tortillas with curry. It was a time-saver but I don't recommend that substitution.

                                    1. re: heypielady

                                      Glad to hear I'm getting the right thing!

                                      By the way, after watching countless episodes of "No Reservations" I don't think I could possibly visit any place in Asia -- especially India -- with a no street food rule. Quite the opposite, in fact: all street food, all the time. Sorry to hear that you made it so close yet were unable to partake. I hope sometime soon that I can go and feast on the many street food options.

                              2. re: tatsu

                                Tatsu, I assume your harassment seminar was a how-not-to, not a how-to. I love the way these things are titled.

                                To add to your greens confusion, Indian palak is not true spinach at all. It's a relative of chard, and a green in the Beet family, Beta Vulgaris. True spinach is in a separate family.

                                Eta: The bread you are describing is almost certainly a paratha, a relative of the chapati but with more fat in the making and the cooking. Parathas are often folded over (or rolled over) when being made so that they are flakier than chapatis and are often stuffed with herbs or leafy vegetables (such as methi/fenugreek) and spices (e.g. turmeric).

                                1. re: FoodDabbler

                                  On thinking about it some more, I think the flat bread Tatsu got at Patel's was likely to be thepla, a relative of the paratha, but thinner and less rich. Was it dry in texture, or soft, moist and pliable? Theplas are often cooked on the dry side and used as part of the food supply on long train trips, etc. They keep well.

                                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                                    It was soft and pliable, very much like a Greek style pita

                                    1. re: tatsu

                                      That sounds what I've gotten there. I'm not a great fan of it,just personal taste, but I bring it home and grill it and it's great.

                                      I've made a # a return trips to D'Guru and have enjoyed everything. I'm not a big green food fan but that spinach/not spinach is great.

                                      I'm a big fan of heat, love a good vindaloo and while the original dishes aren't as spicy as I'd like, a polite request gets a lot of interesting "add on" packages that do satisfy.

                                      This place just gets keeps getting better.

                                      D'Guru Restaurant
                                      185 Devonshire St, Boston, MA 02110

                  1. Pushpinder I think was in the house today - got the palak paneer (spinach and cheese) and the potatoes - veggie combo for $6.95 is a goodly amount of food and it is gone, down my gullet in record time. Same great chow you get at the original location, near as I can tell.
                    I for one like the fry bread - authentic or not, it's tasty to me - rice was perfect amount and good separation on the grains - the potatoes were thoroughly sprinkled with nigella / kalonji and a couple of chiles in the mix that you could break up for more spice. For this gringo, it had a nice low burn that I was happy with. The very blended style of palak is the same as the original, some people might prefer a chunkier consistency - all good, baby on the chow front - get there as often as you can....

                    Chased with a Thums-Up cola - like RC - not acidic like coke, not as sweet as Pepsi

                    On a side note, the take-out container is a pretty big piece of plastic - make sure to recycle that sucker - sure which there was a biodegradable container that they could use.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      Um, what were you wearing? I just got back from there as well. I did enjoy the palak paneer--definitely more flavorful than others I have had--though I have to agree with Prav's point about the texture. Just a bit too creamy. But good. And, yes, the color was quite nice.

                      Agree the rice was nicely prepared. I liked the bread, too, taste-wise, although is it supposed to be that spongy?

                      Will definitely be back soon. Definitely want to try the meats. (Have had too much meat recently so I went veggie today.)

                      1. re: Alcachofa

                        Pink shirt - take-out you probably did not see me.

                    2. I was in today too - Lamb and spinach - super tasty. This time was the sponge-y naan (last time I had the roti and salty potatoes) I managed to save 1/2 & the rice for tomorrow, but it was hard! I am also not a fan of the amount of plastic involved.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: cindywho

                        I am liking this plastic backlash! I wonder if people will start carrying their own bowls like people carry shopping bags now, ha ha.

                        1. re: tatsu

                          Health regulations forbid bringing your own containers. This is the next frontier I believe. For many spots, especially the ones that use styrofoam, I would much prefer to bring my own containers.

                          1. re: smtucker

                            You can bring your own cup to Starbucks... Why not your own bowl to a takeout place? As long as the serving utensil doesn't touch it (which may or may not be as easy to guarantee as with a liquid like coffee...)

                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                              I can't answer this question. There was a time that I was able to bring containers and then the same places couldn't or wouldn't allow it. All sited the Health Department. Local? State? I am not sure, but this might be worth investigating.

                              1. re: smtucker

                                I hate coming off as righteous...but ugh...this is the main reason why I can't do take-out in general...the containers kill me. And if you try to eat in at Guru, you still have to eat with plasticplasticplastic. I would love to be able to bring my own tiffin to get filled up. It's such a bummer.