My wife and I have been in Boston now for about 16 months. In all that time, we’ve tried several Indian restaurants about the place. While we haven’t gone out to Worcester, where we’ve heard of some good places, we’ve seen quite a few in the Boston metro and surrounding areas.
Now, here’s the thing. Most Indian restaraunts are just like every other Indian restaurant. You’ll get your chicken tikka masala at a lunch buffet, etc etc, yada yada, nothing exciting. You might feel trendy, though.
The first place we went to was one of those every-other places in Porter Square. Average food, average prices. The next one is some place in Harvard. Now the food wasn’t great, but the atmosphere is great if you’re a pretentious yuppy trendsetter/Harvard person.
Right across the street from where I used to work (I still work for the same employer, but we’re now located in a different city), was the Ambassador, another every-other place. No links for those, by the way, because they’re just not worth recommending.
Two weeks ago we went down to party-happy Waltham and tried out Mother India. Wow. You pay more for less quality.
As you can see, it’s frustrating. There are
three two above average places left here:
The third place entry is a bit of a surprise: it’s mall food! You read me right. For a long time there, the best place for Indian food that we knew of and tried was in the food court in Burlington Mall. It’s very every-other like, except for a few things you can get that you might not think about. Their South Indian food is below average, but their dahl is pretty good.
The second place entry is Punjabi Dhaba in Inman Square (google that, because I can’t link to citysearch for some reason). We found this place by accident one day, when we went shopping for car insurance. Amazing food. This reminds me of home. It reminds me of my mother’s cooking. It’s a no-nonsense no-frills place. They don’t waste time with servers and bussers and hosts/hostesses and table cloths. You go up to the counter, order what you want and they call out your number. You go back to the counter, pick up a metal tray filled with goodies. I have two reasons for it being in second place:
1. while I am Punjabi and dig Punjabi food, I like to eat South Indian food when I’m out
2. their food is all fattening (but soooooooo damned good, and healthier than your fast food joints
The first place entry sucks. I mean it absolutely blows dogs. Let’s put it this way: the incarnation of this restaurant as of 2 weeks ago is in first place. The way it is now, and has been for a week and a half: well, it is now an every-other. Here’s the deal with this place:it used to be a South Indian vegetarian restaurant. They had great lunch buffets (8.95 on the weekdays 9.95 on the weekends), with yummy vegetarian delights. And you got a choice of dosas with your buffet (plain, masala or mysore masala). Hands down the best dosai I’ve had in Massachusetts. The servers were a little gruff at times, but man, when they knew what you liked, you got what you liked. They always had a table ready for us (at the usual spot no less), and they always knew how we liked our dosas, and how we take our coffee.
Heck, most of the Boston Conspiracy ate there with us and had a great time (and want to do it again).
So, how did the mighty fall? Well, 2 weeks ago they announced that they’re introducing “meat dishes.” Now, I’m a little bothered by it, and I told the servers that when they asked. But last Saturday, my gosh. We walked in and lo and behold — 4 veg. entrees are just gone from the buffet to be replaced by, yep: chicken tikka masala, some lamb dish and another chicken dish (which sounded vaguely South Indian). No we’re down to two veg. entrees, and sambar. Gone are the mushroom curries, the mixed veg, the dahl and the channa.
That was change #1.
Change #2: new cook. Oh yes. I can tell: the new cook is not a South Indian cook, but a nothern Indian cook. This new cook works in a South Indian restaurant and cooks South Indian food like a notherner would. I’m not being bigoted about it: I’m sorry, but I can tell the difference when the food is cooked by someone natively (or at least near natively) or not. In short: the sambar is not worth the mention I just gave it in this sentence. The dosa? Yeah, you can get masala. That’s it. No plain, no mysore, you get masala. Must be too challenging.
Change #3: our regular server is gone. The guy who was most visible wasn’t even there. I don’t know if he left or if he’s just out sick. But it was a little unsettling. Gone with him are the steel glasses you get your water in.
Change #4: the prices. They jumped by 2 dollars. That completed the transformation from: connoisseur’s veg place to every-other-indian-restaurant: high prices for mediocre (at best) food.
And that’s that, there is no #1 Indian restaurant in the Boston area any more. Unless Masalaa Boston rehires the former chef or at least hires a proper South Indian chef, brings the server back, and gets rid of the meat dishes (or at least relegates them to a separate area without compromising the variety of veg. dishes), we’re not going to bother going back there. Our Saturday lunches will have to be taken elsewhere, and it saddens me. At least we enjoyed 4 months of Saturday lunch bliss, and the memory will stay.