Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tikka at Tamarind

I finally got to Tamarind Bay, the Indian restaurant in Harvard Square that replaced a Mexican restaurant where, I think it’s now legally safe to say, I got quite sick from a serving of refried beans. Indian food has replaced Mexican as my cuisine of choice when dining out, partly because it’s not heavy on meat and because its flavors are packed into small portions. But this goes against everything in my gastronomic heritage. I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes family, and my Irish-American father liked “boiled dinners” of ham, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. (I’d pour about a gallon of vinegar over everything on my plate so that the food tasted like something.) On the rare occasions when we dined out, my favorite meal was the fried fisherman’s platter, and I felt shortchanged if the plate wasn’t so overflowing that French fries and breaded clam strips tumbled onto the floor as soon as the waitress put the plate down. That’s why I glared at the waiter the first time I had Indian food, in college, and he presented me with a serving dish of chicken saag hardly bigger than my hand. That must be the spinach, I thought, but when is he going to bring the chicken? (Still, that was less embarrassing than the first time I had sushi and I blithely picked up an entire glob of wasabi and popped it in my mouth.) It took me a few years to appreciate Indian restaurants as a great way to have a leisurely meal with friends without filling up on meat or pasta. Almost as healthy as French restaurants, where about 20 minutes of eating is stretched out over three hours of sitting. So what was good at Tamarind Bay? The tawa paneer (cottage cheese grilled with spring onions and homemade spices) was a tasty appetizer, and the lazeez tikka masala (chicken garnished with capsicum, onions, and tomatoes) was a satisfying entrée. (Capsicum is a kind of pepper defined in my dictionary as a “condiment and intestinal stimulant.”) The mojito was also good, but I declined to sample the after-dinner spices near the exit after I saw someone stifle a sneeze with his hand and then use the same hand to dig around in the open bowl.

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