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Spicy Review of a Roslindale Restaurant

January 29, 2015 by tablecritic in Restaurant Reviews

By Rachel Lebeaux – Roslindale Village has a global array of restaurants: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Italian, even Nigerian. Now diners can add northern Indian and Bangladeshi to the line-up thanks to Shanti, the second branch of Rokeya and Solmon Chowdhury’s Dorchester restaurant, which opened on Washington Street last year.

“We were looking around the area, and the neighborhood was really welcoming,” says Mahesh Shahi who manages both the Roslindale and Dorchester locations. And the restaurant has turned right around and welcomed the community back, with wine dinners, cooking classes and a well-appointed dining room with plenty of windows, red ochre walls and an oversized Buddhist statue presiding over the dining room. Shanti means “peace” in Sanskrit, and it certainly feels serene in here.

But the invigorating flavors at Shanti are anything but quiet. For the uninitiated, the menu is built like a meal, with helpful explanations of what might be unfamiliar dishes; our waiter, Sandesh Adhikari, was able to answer any questions the menu couldn’t.

The meal starts with complimentary papadum, thin, crispy lentil wafers, and an accompanying trio of chutneys: a smooth mint, cilantro and yogurt blend; a spicy red onion version; and a sweet tamarind dipping sauce. With that, order the classic Indian-restaurant beverage, the yogurt-based mango lassi ($3.95), which is stellar here: extremely thick, fruity and poured in a nice tall glass.

Our first starter, coconut soup ($3.95), brings together slightly sweetened coconut milk, a generous portion of shredded coconut and a sprinkle of pistachios on top. It’s rich, luxuriant and thankfully not too sweet.

From there, the mixed appetizer plate ($9.95) provided a little bit of everything: vegetables dipped in chickpea batter and fried; potatoes sliced into ovals, lightly battered and spiced; a vegetarian samosa stuffed with potatoes and peas and a meat version that adds curried beef; doughy vegetable pakora fritters; potato patties tossed with bread crumbs and dotted with peas; and finally tender slices of chicken tikka marinated in spices and yogurt and cooked in a clay oven. If you’re unfamiliar with Indian food, it’s a great place to start; the vegetarian samosa and chickpea-battered vegetables are personal favorites.

And speaking of vegetables: Indian cuisine offers a stunning array of dishes for non-meat eaters, and Shanti has some of the best I’ve tried. Case in point: bhindi masala ($11.95), diced okra replete with diced onions, tomatoes and spices, and a squeeze of lemon juice for some acidity. Okra has a sometimes-deserved reputation as being slimy, but slimy this dish is not; a quick fry makes the delicately spiced okra pop — not squish — in your mouth.

Vegetarian delights continue with the baingan bharta ($11.95): whole eggplants are smoked over an open fire, then sautéed and mashed with Indian spices and mustard oil. Spliced with onion, tomatoes and cilantro, it’s smoky, silky and intensely flavorful.

Like most Indian restaurants, Shanti has its own take on saag paneer (12.95), a well-known Indian dish that blends spinach with garlic, fresh ginger and cream. Although the spinach itself was a bit toned-down for my liking (next time, I’d order it spicier), the dense, hand-pressed paneer cheese was a tasty, filling foil.

Of course, there are myriad options for meat eaters on the menu, too. The vindaloo ($11.95) submerges your choice of protein (in our case, tender chicken thigh) and potatoes in a spicy red sauce made of roasted hot chili peppers, lemon juice and spices. Unlike some dishes that swim in cream, this was a lighter, but still flavorful, selection. And of course, there’s a range of meat offerings, among them lamb, beef and seafood, and sauces from korma to jalfrezi.

We scooped up these entrees with a pair of puffy naan breads, including a browned, bubbly garlic naan ($3.95) stuffed with fresh garlic and sprinkled with fresh cilantro. There was also a big bowl of basmati rice studded with green peas and a smattering of fried onions.

At several points during the meal, sizzling cast-iron platters passed by us on their way to other tables; we were finally impelled to inquire about those delicious smells wafting by. The tandoori chicken ($12.95), still steaming as it arrived at our table, paired grilled strands of carrots, onions, and red and green peppers with juicy, straight-from-the-tandoori-oven chicken. In each bite, in addition to the marinade of turmeric, garam masala and other spices, you can taste the smoky vestiges of the clay oven.

The meal wound down with gullab jamun, two deep-fried wheat and milk balls soaked in luscious sugar syrup.

Assessment
Shanti will have you coming back to dine in, take out, and maybe even take a class to learn more about one of the neighborhood’s newest cuisines. The restaurant’s wide-ranging menu adeptly tackles your well-loved Indian classics, with a particularly impressive lineup of vegetarian standouts. And Roslindale not only got great Indian food when Shanti came to the neighborhood; it welcomed a new member of the community.

Address: 4197 Washington Street, Roslindale, MA 02131
Phone: 617-325-3900
Websitehttp://www.shantiboston.com
Cuisine: Indian/Bangladeshi
Price: Appetizers $3.95-$9.95; entrees $11.95-$18.95; desserts $3.95
Hours: Daily: 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-10pm
Features: Lunch buffet, takeout, wine dinners, vegan dinners and cooking classes
Recommendations:  Mango lassi, coconut soup, vegetable samosas, bhindi masala, baingan bharta, saag paneer, chicken vindaloo, chicken tandoori

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