India PavilionCambridge, MARestaurant
4.5 Star Restaurant (our ratings)
An original concept in Indian restaurants: health food.
Review by Johnny Monsarrat
When Sukhwinder Singh tells me, “I love to cook”, of course I’ve heard that before. Then the manager of India Pavilion excuses himself while I wait for my food. After making some notes, I look through the large glass window into the kitchen, and even though he has a full staff on duty, he’s the one making my food, dressed in a crisp, flawless business suit.
Apparently, he loves to cook.
There are a lot of semi-upscale Indian places in Cambridge and Boston, but this is a step above and it’s not an accident. Singh’s father-in-law owns three restaurants, all with a different focus. Haveli in Cambridge, formerly Akbar India, is for casual dinners. Punjabi Dhaba is a quick bite self-service take out shop. And India Pavilion is their full service restaurant with real decor.
It works. The place is upscale, romantic, and dimly lit, but the prices are moderate. The entrees are all $10-$13. They serve wine and beer but their bar is hidden in the back where it doesn’t take over the restaurant feel of the place, and it seats 100. It’s perfect for a casual lunch, business meeting, or date.
Singh was a computer engineer in India, but married into the family and came to the USA, learning the business and how to cook from his father-in-law. He swears the restaurant is authentic to his home country, and they’ve also dared to go beyond what I’ve seen at Indian places: it can be healthy. Healthy?
Sure, Singh says. For example, they have a vegetarian menu, and serve tandoori shrimp! It’s delightful and comes with tomato, lemon, lettuce, mint, and yogurt. It’s cleaned, so a fork food, not a finger food. They have tandoori fish, too. What an original idea.
Tandoor cooking takes all the fat out of the meat, by melting it away. And customers can ask can substitute white meat for dark meat. They use 2% milk in their yogurt, and vegetable oil instead of butter in their curries. I’m not sure I buy it, but I want healthy Indian food too much to look closely. And partly the proof is in the eating. It’s not greasy. At Indian restaurants, there’s usually a stage of regret that follows delicious. You are safe from that at India Pavilion.
The lamb curry left a delightful burning in my mouth, and I tried masala lemonade, which comes with black pepper and salt. It has no pulp and is well blended into a single substance, which makes it too smooth and perfect, like gatorade, but it’s another example of ethnic cuisine that’s distinctive, interesting, but accessible. That’s indicative of the entire restaurant, and they cook for anyone’s taste. Just order your meal mild, spicy, or medium, which is the default.
Unusual meals include the West Indies jerk chicken, which is a chicken curry with jerk sauce. It’s rich, really spicy and tender, with a plain substrate of rice that’s a nice balance. They say to get the hot out of your mouth, don’t drink water, which just spreads it around. Eat rice or some of the peshawa bread, which is sweet.
Or try some raita, a homemade yogurt, that’s creamy but not sweet like the yogurt’s you find in the grocery store. It’s more like a cole slaw sauce or a salad dressing. The restaurant is full of such discoveries, including Indian beer and wine, goat curry masala, and even lobster tikka masala!
An Indian restaurant with seafood? At reasonable prices? In a great atmosphere? Just steps from the subway? And that offers a daily lunch buffet?
You had me at seafood.
17 Central Square, Cambridge MA