First Bite: Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen

By | Chowder |

1228419655Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine (who isn’t too fond of ethnic or spicy cuisines) proclaimed that Indian food “all tastes the same”—a gross overgeneralization, to be sure. But while she and I differ on most food-related matters, this time I could actually see where she was coming from.

Especially in Boston, lots of Indian food does taste the same. Why? Much of it is prepared using a batch method (i.e. one master sauce base is doctored up to flavor several different dishes). Kind of like an Italian restaurant adding meat to their marinara and calling it Bolognese.

A few great outlets do serve up authentic and elegant Indian cuisine, like Best of Boston 2008 winner Tamarind Bay in Harvard Square or homestyle lunch-delivery service Guru the Caterer, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

So I was jazzed to hear about the opening of Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen in Brookline, a sibling to the Cambridge resto.

Eschewing the homogeneous fare, the new restaurant not only prepares everything to order, it actually makes an effort to showcase Indian specialties beyond Tandoori chicken, namely seafood. (The country has 7,600 miles of coastline, so Indian cooks’ prowess with aquatic edibles makes sense.)

The menu is stacked with choices not found at your typical Indian eatery, such as fenugreek-marinated salmon, haddock-stuffed calamari in onion sauce, and whole grilled pomfret (a tender white fish) with Indian pickle spices.

Mangalorean lobster tail, smothered in a voluptuous curry sauce and served with a buttery black lentil dal, was the star of our recent visit, and what the grilled scallop appetizer lacked in texture—a good sear would have lent it more crispness and bite—it made up for with a pleasantly mild mint-and-lemon sauce.

For the seafood-averse, there’s lamb and chicken—the mutton pepper fry is spicy, aromatic and not at all gamy—as well as 11 vegetarian entrees. (Our pick: the Lalla Musa Dal, an entrée-sized portion of those tasty lentils.)

For now, don’t bother saving room for dessert—we hear they’re developing more, but the tomato-flavored ice cream we braved was oddly chemical-tasting. Instead, accessorize your entree with sides like crispy garlic naan and feathery-light Malabar Pulau (rice with coconut, mustard seed and curry leaf).

This ain’t no $9.95 Indian buffet, for sure. And that’s a very good thing.

Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen, 1665 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-277-1752, tamarind-bay.com.