The town of Lexington is one of the Boston area's most popular destinations for lovers of history, and the Lexington Green in particular is quite a popular spot with tourists, as the beautiful open space happened to be the site of the first military conflict of the American Revolution back in 1775. The grassy common is surrounded by old homes and other historic structures with no real commercial development alongside it, so upon first glance, tourists may think that they have to head east down Mass. Ave. to get a bite to eat. This is not entirely true, however, as a small Indian restaurant called Royal India Bistro sits a baseball's throw away from the green, hidden away on a side street with a few other businesses. And while it perhaps isn't be the type of classic old-fashioned New England restaurant that you might expect to see in the heart of an historic area, the place is certainly worth considering, as it has some of the best Indian fare in the northwest suburbs of Boston.
Like many businesses in the center of Lexington, Royal India Bistro has a decidedly plain exterior, blending in with other shops within the building that all look the same from the outside, and being differentiated mainly by their names above their respective storefronts. Indeed, the restaurant seems to be nearly completely invisible, especially with its location just to the north of Mass. Ave., and its being situated across from a tree-shaded open space where the Lexington Visitor Center resides further obscures the eatery. The folks behind Royal India Bistro have done a nice job with the boxy interior, with an attractive front-door curtain, pictures and sconces on the pastel walls, hanging lights that don't shine too brightly, rustic-looking chairs, and a long, cushy bench seat that extends along the right wall all adding a bit of atmosphere to the place.
Royal India Bistro doesn't really concentrate on any one section of India for its cuisine, which helps make the menu quite varied. Starters include a mulligatawny soup that isn't quite as thick and rich as others you might find, instead having a light broth and an array of pureed veggies, including zucchini and carrots; crispy cheese pakora, which consists of housemade cheese coated in a nutty chickpea batter; meat and veggie samosas, both of which have lightly spiced potatoes and peas inside the turnovers, and are almost filling enough to be made into a meal; aloo tiki, or potato patties that have a complex mix of spices, with coriander and cumin seeming to stand out a bit; and papad, or mild-tasting black bean wafers that can be topped with plum or hot chili dipping sauce. Fans of naan, or unleavened white bread, will definitely want to order a basket for the table, with garlic, cheese, onion, and chicken naan all being options here (one of the specials--basil naan--is marvelous, with the bright taste of the basil going perfectly with the bread). Equally good is the paratha, or layered whole wheat flatbread, and the aloo paratha--which includes potatoes and peas--is a must-try item. The main dishes at Royal India Bistro include all of the usual suspects (saag, tikka masala, vindaloo, etc.), along with rice dishes, dosas, tandoori specialties, and vegetarian plates. Among the rice options is an extraordinary dish called nizami biryani, which has a delectable mix of chicken, lamb, cashews, raisins, and basmati rice, with fresh spices adding some complex flavors to it all. The dosas are very solid here, with the thin crepes being not too crispy and not too mushy, and the meats, potatoes, onions, and spices giving the crepes that warm, comforting taste that dosas are known for. Veggie options are many at Royal India Bistro, with freshly made cheese being used for several of them, including the creamy and mild shahi paneer korma, which gets a bit of texture from nuts and raisins. Drinks include tea and coffee, yogurt drinks (lassi), and light-tasting Indian beers such as Kingfisher, while desserts include a creamy rice pudding with cardamom on top and daily specials such as ice cream with saffron. Prices for meals are average overall, with most being between $10 and $15.
Lexington isn't really known as a destination town for restaurants, but there are some good ones here, including the humble little Royal India Bistro. It may not be the type of place you'd expect to find adjacent to an historic village green in a charming New England town, and it might not look like a whole lot from the outside, but the food here is nothing short of heavenly, and the varied menu should pretty much guarantee that most people can find something that they will enjoy.
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