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Tandoor authenticity in Belmont

Email|Print| Text size + By Arthi Subramaniam
October 16, 2003

Kashish in Hindi means attraction and an indescribable desire for the finest pleasures in life.

And truly enough there is something appealing about this Indian restaurant. Sconces wrapped with a copper screen, which hang over the tables, add elegance to the spacious dining room. Two wood carvings stand out on the plain white walls. In one corner of the room, you can watch dishes being prepared on the tandoor (grill) through glass windows.

The menu says its goal is to serve its patrons a meal of their dreams. Chef Chinta Devanand tries to fulfill that desire by sticking to the principal flavors of Indian cuisine. "I don't like to take short-cuts and rather take time in my preparations," he says.

Devanand prepares tried and true Indian staples, but he also innovates. The creamy and flavorful tomato-coconut soup ($3.75) is a perfect way to start a meal. Vegetable pakoras ($3.75) yield a delicate crunch before melting in the mouth.

Some appetizers need to be fine-tuned. Dahi aloo papri ($4.25, spiced potatoes, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, wheat wafers in yogurt sauce) is soft and crunchy in texture but lifeless in taste and could use more wafers over the onions. Bhel ($6.25, mixture of puffed rice, chick pea fried noodles, vegetables in tamarind sauce) is pleasantly sweet, sour, spicy at once. But then there is an unpleasant burned oil aftertaste that lingers.

Sunny Saini, who helps to run his family business, says "we use the same kind of recipes used in India." That authencity is reflected in the tandoor dishes.

Tandoori salmon tikka ($13.95) is executed with flawless precision. Marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and garam masala (spice mix), the fish comes sizzling on a bed of onions with wedges of lemon. The salmon is moist and gussied up in a deep red coating of mild chili powder. The accompanying creamy tomato sauce accentuates the piquancy of the fish.

The breads are definitely something to try out, too. Both the aloo (potato) and garlic naan ($3.25) are soft and flaky and build up a reservoir of good will instantly. The palak paneer paratha ($3.95) is an interesting innovation. Palak paneer (homemade cheese with spinach), usually a dish in itself, is used as a stuffing and amps the flavor of the bread, which is a mite too dry. The long, rolled-up masala dosa ($6.95, rice and lentil crepes stuffed with potato) draws oohs and aahs. It is crisp on the edges and has a delicious potato and onion filling. But its accompaniments are a letdown. The sambar (lentil soup) is thin in taste and the coconut chutney is too sweet and not fresh.

Paneer bhuna ($10.95, cheese roasted with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers) is delectable but the large pieces of onion overpower the mild taste of the cheese. I am not particularly excited by either the aloo dum ($11.25, baby potatoes with onions and tomatoes) or the chicken nawabi ($12.25, chicken pieces cooked with ginger, garlic, green peppers, and spices). It seems like the kitchen has taken the easy way out and used the same sauce base for all the three dishes.

But the mutter mushroom bhaji ($12.25) is outstanding. The heat from the curry sauce is subtly woven into the peas and mushrooms. The shrimp in the do-pyaz ($14.95) is tender and radiantly gingery and every piece begs to be bitten into.

The strength in the dessert list lies in the homemade ice creams. Doaba kulfi ($3.95) looks unassuming, but the flavor is a star. "Doaba is a village in Punjab from where the owner comes and it is famous for its milk products. The owner's mother, Satwant, uses a special churner to make this ice cream," Devanand says. It is nutty from the ground pistachios and smooth and creamy. Mango bahar ($3.50) is also a steal. The vanilla ice cream capped with mango puree is heavenly.

The menu invites you "to give in to Kashish." And you will -- if the kitchen makes a few tweaks, such as giving each dish its own distinctive sauce and cutting down on the omnipresent large pieces of onion.

KASHISH

Cuisine: Indian

Address: 61 Leonard Street, Belmont

Phone: 617-617-5111

Hours: Sun. - Thurs., 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.

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