India CastleCambridge, MARestaurant
3-Star Restaurant (our ratings)
Inexpensive and comfortable, yet average.
India Castle does not impress on the first glance. It seats nearly 50 people, and the walls, which are brick and rectangular with traditional Indian paintings, clash with the ceiling, which is brightly colored and curved in modern swoops. It makes me wonder if the restaurant has grown organically rather than being the product of a unified grand vision. There’s a full bar with a television, but it doesn’t dominate the space. This is definitely more a restaurant than a bar.
I was able to interview the manager, Mantosh Upadhayaya. Although he’s from Nepal, he loves India’s similar food and culture. I’ve never had a restaurant manager say anything but that their food is better than anyone else’s, so when Mantosh says it too, I remained skeptical. Still, he insisted that more ethnic Indians choose India Castle over competitive restaurants, and it could be true.
A couple of nearby diners, Claire Winthrop and Tatiana Brainerd, chipped in too. “We love this place,” Claire said. “My Indian friends had their child’s birthday party here, and this is the place I recommend to all my friends. Even my 5-year-old daughter, who can be finnicky, loves the food here.”
Why does she love the food so much? “They focus on getting the best ingredients.”
Mantosh elaborated. “Our food is not oily or fatty, it’s just like it’s homemade,” he said. “Other restaurants use tomato paste, but we grind fresh tomatoes and make our own sauce. We’re the only ones in the Boston area who do it.” I suppose that could be true, too, but it’s hard to believe that no other Indian restaurant in Greater Boston can be bothered to grind tomatoes.
One thing I can validate though is the presence of India Castle’s wonderful bread. Most Indian buffets leave a pile of naan in a buffet basket, but India Castle brings out fresh naan to everyone. It’s fresh, warm, and soft, and not greasy. Delightful! And for dinner they set little burners at each table to keep the main entrees warm, Mantosh told me.
So, I tried the buffet, which came marked with the names of all the foods. It even comes with a salad option and special dessert balls called gulab jamun. The most disitinctive meal in the buffet was goat curry, which they serve Mondays and Fridays. I’m afraid I didn’t care for it. It had bones and the meat was tough.
Mantosh got me a mango lassi, a mixed drink like a smoothie that comes with ice cubes. It was frothy and pure. I commented that I wished that the ice cubes could be mixed in, and Mantosh brought me a vanilla milkshake to follow. That hit the spot! The shake comes not fully blended, so it still has ice crystals, which have a nice crunch to them, and the vanilla flavoring is strong. It was not too thick, and had a rich milk taste. Boy! That would be just what I’d need on a hot day.
From the buffet, the chicken tikka masala was my favorite: tender, spicy, and delicious. But every Indian restaurants offers a similar meal. I asked Mantosh if India Castle had a dish that was completely unique and he replied that although every meal they serve you can find elsewhere, they do it better.
Running a restaurant is tough and I love to support local businesses, but it doesn’t help anyone for me to go soft as a reviewer. It’s possible that India Castle is fantastic and I either missed it or I’m just not acquainted enough with real Indian food to tell. Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I found India Castle a little spicier than competitive places, and overall solid, but average in the presentation, atmosphere, and quality of the food. By all means go if you are in the area! It’s inexpensive and perhaps you’ll become one of their many regulars by sensing something that I missed. But even Claire and Tatiana, who are fans, admitted that they chose India Castle partly because it’s convenient to where they work.
928 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Buffet Daily 11:30am-3:30pm