GRAIN AND SALT, CAMBRIDGE STREET, ALLSTON
Dudes, this is the real thing. The first Desi place in greater Boston that will serve you interesting food with honest flavors (and does it with fresh, quality ingredients). If this place shuts down due to lack of business, I will cry. Really! Because I will have to drive to Waltham more often!
You can see the menu here: http://boston.menupages.com/restauran...
I tried a few dishes, getting a couple Pakistani stews and a couple British-North-Indian-Restaurant standards. So. Good.
* Seekh kebab, despite a dry texture, was exploding with flavor. This is great meat. It was a good portion, served with minty red onions.
* Palak paneer had a great warm garam masala flavor, and tasted more of spinach than of cream. I do like the Tamarind Bay take on this dish, but let's face it, if you put as much dairyfat in something as TB does, you're taking the easy way out. The GS version tastes homemade.
* Haleem was creamy and a little bit mucilaginous (in a good way). There were some nice chunks of beef in there, not chopped as small as in other versions of this dish I've had. The spice was very subtle and I couldn't quite figure out what went into it.
* Paya (here, chunks of cow foot in a thin sauce) had a perfectly bouncy, long-cooked texture, with a beautiful subtle spicing. It had a certain amount of anise flavor that was reminiscent of the tendon in a good bowl of pho. The price, however, was excessive ($10 or $12 for 2 big chunks of foot).
The latter two dishes were Friday-Saturday-Sunday specials. They also have nihari on the menu but it wasn't available today. The default "medium" level of spice was actually significantly spicy, just enough to give a good flavor to the food. They will go up or down in heat as requested.
The weak point was actually the complementary rice included with the order. It was on the dry side (maybe I should've microwaved it a bit more before eating it) and had a lot of broken grains in it. It did have a nice dose of cardamom flavor and fried onions mixed in.
I'm really psyched about this place because the next time an unadventurous eater suggest we go out for Indian, I can take them to Grain and Salt, even order some familiar Brit-English standards, and trust that they'll be prepared in a careful, non-obvious way.