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Apr 4, 2014 06:21 PM

Ain't nothin' but a ghee thing, baby!

What are your favorite area Indian restaurants? We savored a luxe meal at the Maharaja in Harvard Square recently. I've also enjoyed good meals at the roadside shack in Inman (Punjabi Dhaba) and at Punjab in Arlington Center. You?

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  1. I thought our dinner at Royal India Bistro in Lexington a few months ago was one of the best Indian meals we've had in an extremely long time.

    1. Ritu Ki Rasoi in Burlington. Odd location, no ambience, and vegetarian. Also, some of the best food and satisfying meals this carnivore has ever had! The menu for the buffets is posted about 30 seconds ahead of time but hardly any names are dishes I recognize anyway, so it hardly matters. Sat/Sun brunch buffets have MANY dishes from various regions of India. The Wednesday dinner buffet rotates, specializing in a different region each week, with occasional Wednesdays being chaat from various regions.

      2 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        I second the rec for Ritu Ki Rasoi. I have been going there for lunch for about six months and I am continually surprised by the number of new dishes that I haven't seen before that show up on the buffet. I love the fact that the staff circulates around the room offering freshly made Chapati and dosas. The variety of dishes, and the subtle flavors at RKR have made it my go-to place for Indian food. I haven't been able to try the weekend buffets yet but I have been looking forward to doing so.

        1. re: RoyRon

          Me three. I'd normally rather starve than go to a veg resto, but I love his place

      2. We like Dosa n Curry on Somerville Ave. All veg - lots of spices - low ghee content so far as I can tell.

        32 Replies
        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          I'll second Dosa n' Curry-- great dosas, too, a major step up in quality from Central Sq's "rival" Dosa spot.

          A great many Cambridge folk swear by Inman Sq's Punjabi Dhaba, but I've given it many, many chances and it never impresses me. Decent for the price (hence my repeat biz), but I find their curries watery and bland, their tomato-based gravies cheap-tasting and acidic (like the cheapest canned tomato sauce), and on two occasions their chic-peas were overcooked almost to a fine, chic-pea-shaped vapor.

          Tamarind Bay had been my favorite-- RIP!

          1. re: eatinjeff

            I found 2 So. Indian yelp reviews that were articulate and convinced me that i would not care for this place. It certainly may be better than the Central Sq. spot(not a difficult feat) but Dosa 'n Curry's chef apparently does not understand proper spices and treatment of the So. dishes on the menu.
            While it's not vegtrn, Guru gets many good Indian responses on yelp, so i'll try them soon.

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Sounds like a rigorous peer-review process. ;)

              I haven't tried their South Indian curries, though, so I can't comment. I'm glad for the lead on Guru-- that place looks excellent!

              1. re: eatinjeff

                Very rigorous. I always rely on reviewers who proclaim they are "from" some place and thus makes them an automatic authority of "authentic" food. It helps me understand if I should like the actual food.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Indeed, this is stupid. Considering that my observation has been that folks I know if different origins are no more likely to have non-horrible taste buds than someone from here, I never understood this.

                  There is a golden panda style (as in the food clearly comes from the same provider) near where I work which is often dominated by Asian customers. Does that mean that it is likely a good place? It certainly satisfies he "lots if asian people, it must be good!"

                  Even if one assumes the person has good tastes, "I'm from X and this isn't a good Y" is still a bad indicator. It could mean hat they simply have quirky tastes, or that there is inherent variation in how Y is made and get prefer it differently.

                  And FWIW OC, a South Indian couple I know (who also love ritu, for instance) also highly recommend this place. So due to your blind faith in ethnicity I suppose you should have a neutral stance now (2 vs 2)

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    I liked D&C just fine the once I went but wished the flavors were a bit more intense--sheer preference. But that was when Biryani Park was around. Sigh. Guess it's time for another go. I'd get to Ritu more often if I could go when the traffic wasn't horrible.

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      whatever works for you, bob. my gut feeling has worked very well for me so far,but then 'vote for me cuz i'm always right and i never lie.'

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        Bonus points for using the word "grandmother," right?

                    2. re: opinionatedchef

                      While it is sure to offend some people, I continue to believe that the huge majority of Americans have as much knowledge and informed appreciation of Indian food, as did my mother's generation(born in the '20's) with 'Chinese food.' I think that almost every single time i have followed a Boston CH's advice and gone to an Indian restnt.,I have been at least very disappointed, if not horrified.

                      Well, Guru for lunch today was as meh as any other meh Indian food I have had. We tasted 8 dishes. The Lamb in Curry Sauce had the best spicing of all of them; the Curry Chicken was waaaay overcooked/dry in a characterless sauce; ditto the overcooked- in- old-oil lamb samosas; the rice was fine and had more cumin than usual- which was nice; the dal and the rehydrated soybean side dishes were forgettable; the best i can say about the kheer is that it was refreshing. Cheap and filling,yes, but 8 dishes and nothing worth returning for.

                      Bummer. Yet another example of immigrants who come over here and think they can do well with a restaurant when they have no skills as a chef (like the thousands of Greeks who started pizza places when they had no real knowledge or skills re: pizza.) Just like Joyce Chen bringing America out of the darkness of chopsuey and chow mein, and introducing America to Szechuan food in the '60's, and ditto Diana Kennedy with Mexican food in the '80's, whoever is going to do the same with quality Indian food
                      must either be in NYC, or not have appeared yet. <loud crying>

                      Anyone tried Masala? I called today and their buffet dishes sounded like a copycat version of Kebab Factory, with the bonus of chicken wontons and dosa. (and they are not owned by the same people.)This did not give me any confidence in their ability to use spices either. Gosh, good Indian food can be a wonder. But what we get here is the equivalent of Wonder Bread. It's interesting. I have heard it said, on other CH posts by natives of those countries, that (quality)Indian and Greek food- are found in the realm of the home kitchen.

                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        My Indian friend who spent the fall semester at the Harvard K School opined that the only local Indian restaurant that came close to authentic was the Royal Bengal near MIT. I hope to get there myself sometime soon.

                        1. re: peregrine

                          interested to hear more about it. do you happen to know what Indian state your friend was from?

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            She is a native of Maharashtra and has lived all over India. (army brat and civil servant)

                          2. re: peregrine

                            Case in point: Royal Bengal is AWFUL. There are plenty of restaurants around that are not only "closer to authentic," but actually good food.

                            1. re: Luther

                              luther, over the years i've seen and learned tons from your posts about asian food .
                              To what parts of india have you travelled, and how long were you there?

                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                west bengal, NCT, MP, for a few weeks. I have several Bengali friends who don't disagree with me on Royal Bengal. But I guess it's closed now anyway.

                              1. re: BostonZest

                                Then I guess I'll never know. Perhaps they cooked special for her?

                            2. re: opinionatedchef

                              OC I think you've set yourself up to get no answer to your question about Masala. After saying "almost every single time i have followed a Boston CH's advice and gone to an Indian restnt.,I have been at least very disappointed, if not horrified." I think anyone would be reluctant to recommend anything to you here :)

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                chris, you could be right, but then again, see below! the Boston CH community is a generous and vocal one!

                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  Glad people stepped up to offer suggestions. Honestly, I wouldn't, not enough faith in my knowledge of Indian cuisine, and my ability to distinguish good from really great Indian. Normally that wouldn't stop me from offering up places I've liked, but when you'e set the bar so high and the consequences of bad recommendations are so dire for you, I'd hate to be the one responsible for you being horrified.

                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                    gee chris, i see being horrified as just a many-times-a-day occurrence. quotidien is the word i think.

                              2. re: opinionatedchef

                                I'll bite. I was born in central India but grew up in the midwest and my mother is an excellent cook.

                                Home food is great because it's freshly cooked in small amounts by a person you like for people they like. They might use foods that are hard to get here -- a specific mango, a type of potato, limboo (lemon/lime cross).

                                But here is the deal, though. India is a HUGE country with many different dishes/styles. My own community eats vegetarian food that is not really spicy at all. Restaurants don't make many of my favorite foods -- things like pitla bhath or sabudana khichidi or sada varan at all because there aren't really enough people in the US to support such a restaurant. The spices are more subtle, the oil is minimal, all is dependent on very fresh, sometimes finicky ingredients

                                Restaurants in the US that I've been to tend to be run by people from the North (and here I'm including Nepali-run places) and South with a few Gujarati places. Because they have large communites in the US and because Americans really like spicy food and they like meat. I like some of these places (Tanjore, Masala) but really, my say-so isn't any better than asking a "foodie" from Italy about his favorite French restaurant.

                                Also, in my observation, many Indians frequent places with "all you can eat" buffets and fast-foody type places. Not necessarily because they are great but because inexpensive and the spice mix is familiar.

                                1. re: MXG

                                  My Indian friend would agree that US Indian restaurant cooking is unlike anything that most Indians of whatever region would eat at home.

                                  1. re: MXG

                                    In my experience, many Americans also frequent all you can eat buffets and fast-foody type places. *wink*

                                    Oil and salt are popular the world over, and being "from" somewhere doesn't make you an authority. MXG, I'd love to taste your mother's cooking as the amount of oil in a lot of Indian food around here is overwhelming. It's much harder to get great flavor without relying on fat.

                                    I personally have liked Dosa & Curry because it's my first exposure to dosas and I feel less greased up after a meal there than the typical mall food court Indian.

                                    1. re: Parsnipity

                                      Parspipity -- it is so easy. Just rice, a cooked vegetable, a fresh vegetable, dal and maybe a pickle. Maybe this is better on the "Home Cooking" board but here is a good site for this type of food:

                                      I find that I can replicate my mom's recipes here as long as I get my spices from a store with good turnover and shop for vegetables at Russos. Sadly, my own children hate Indian food and prefer Chinese. Oh, America!

                                      I want to go to Dosa & Curry and Ritu but I'm too lazy to drive there when I have places closer to me :) One day!

                                      1. re: MXG

                                        Thanks! Will definitely explore that blog. "Home-cooking" is such a tough thing to pin down. I want the home-cooking of people with discerning taste who are chow hounds, you know?

                                      2. re: Parsnipity

                                        This, a million times.

                                        This is exactly what I was getting at in my other post in this thread. Most people have crappy taste in food, and just because someone is from somewhere doesn't change that fact. Sure, they might prefer flavors of their homeland but the probability is high that they're going to steer you toward craptacular flavors from their homeland if you listen to them.

                                        Taking some random person's advice on the internet because they're from somewhere (particularly when it is as generic as 'from china' or 'from india') and/or doing the "lost of X eat there so it must be good X food!" is completely useless unless you have some particular reason to believe that person's tastes. And really, at that point you're only vetting the comparison of their tastebuds to yours at which point 'authenticity' is no longer really a factor anyways.

                                        India is larger than western europe, with many regional variation - not to mention a billion people for added variability within region. As someone else intimated - you wouldn't say "This person is from Sicily, so clearly they know what good european food tastes like!"

                                        And all of this isn't even getting into the 'authenticity' argument, which has been rehashed oodles of time on CH.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          I wonder if anyone had done controlled studies of people's reactions to negative and positive restaurant reviews,with the goal being to discover whether one or the other is more accepted.

                                      3. re: MXG

                                        so glad to learn all this. th you )

                                      4. re: opinionatedchef

                                        I agree that Guru is "just okay." The food is passable.

                                        Masala is serviceable. They have a cheap lunch buffet -- $9 on weekdays, $11 on weekends -- and $3 house margaritas (no idea how these might taste, I haven't dared to try one).

                                        They're running a $15-for-$20 deal on Yelp if anyone's interested. It's nice in the warmer weather when they open the front of the restaurant.

                                        1. re: misseri

                                          misseri, thx for being so helpful! yet another place to avoid.

                                    2. re: eatinjeff

                                      Hankering for hawker grub, I'm curious to revisit Punjabi Dhaba's snacks and chaats. For a "roadside cafe" I wonder if they're as good as RKR's, which are quite good.

                                  2. Pakistan/Mughal: Darbar (not buffet)
                                    Southern: Ritu ki Rasoi, or more locally, Dosa n Curry

                                    1. I'm curious to hear how Shan-a-Punjab in Brookline rates relative to the places that have been mentioned thus far. I enjoyed my takeout a couple of weeks ago, but I very rarely eat Indian food, so I don't have many points of comparison.