Grain and Salt (CLOSED)
431 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA 02134
Perhaps it is because of the infamous Seinfeld episode, or maybe it is because there are precious few restaurants that feature the cuisine, but in some circles, when one mentions Pakistani food, the reaction is often a snicker (thanks to Seinfeld) or a vacant look. It is a shame, as Pakistani cuisine is really quite interesting with its use of exotic spices and healthy (yet tasty) ingredients. Indeed, Pakistani food is similar to the ever-popular Indian cuisine in many ways, so Pakistani restaurants need not get a bum rap. So where are these Pakistani restaurants in the Boston area? Well, one of them happens to be on the edge of one of Boston's most bustling neighborhoods. But because of its slightly out of the way location, Grain and Salt remains a little-known, but excellent, restaurant that deserves better in the way of business.
Grain and Salt is located a block from Allston's main drag in a spot that has seen its share of restaurants, including the Saigon Restaurant, a Vietnamese dining spot that this site once featured. From the outside, Grain and Salt looks tiny, but it actually takes up two rooms, with the room to the right being the main dining area. This room is cozy, quiet, and somewhat romantic, with its hardwood floor, dark tablecloths, traditional music, interesting artwork, and attractive wall lights adding a good amount of ambiance to the place. The wall between the two rooms is open, making the restaurant feel a bit larger than it actually is.
The food at Grain and Salt is actually a mix of Pakistani and Indian cuisine, with both cuisines well represented in their regular menu. Starters include all kinds of naan (garlic, potato, etc.) as well as a hearty chicken soup with coriander, a mild tomato soup, and a variety of pakoras. The menu features a seemingly endless variety of entrees, including a warming, comforting aloo masala (potatoes in a tomato and onion gravy with a number of delicious spices) and a wonderfully flavorful chicken tandoori that is marinated overnight in yogurt, ginger, and garlic. Other offerings include several types of kebabs, a few rice-based dishes (biryani), and roti, as well as lamb and seafood entrees, and even a section on Indian-Chinese cuisine. There is also a special weekend menu that features many of these items and more, and there is a weekend special that features traditional Pakistani dishes (haleem, nihari, and paya). Drinks at Grain and Salt include an excellent masala tea and yogurt drinks called lassi, with the mango lassi being particularly refreshing.
Pakistani cuisine is a rare find within the Boston restaurant scene, but thanks to Grain and Salt in Allston, there is indeed a place in Beantown where diners can try it. And the fact that Grain and Salt's menu is a mix of Indian and Pakistani cuisine means that even those who might not want to try a "new" type of food should have plenty of options here. Heck, even Seinfeld might like this place, though perhaps that is up for debate.
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