The Savin Hill section of Dorchester may seem like an odd place for one of Boston's best Indian restaurants; indeed, the section of Dorchester Avenue that cuts through this neighborhood remains mostly a working-class area with several time-worn taverns, an abundance of auto body shops, and hair salons on every other street corner. But among all these places sits an attractive dining spot called Shanti: Taste of India, right in the heart of the neighborhood near the corner of Savin Hill and Dorchester Avenues. It may seem a bit out of place, but perhaps that is partly why Shanti is one of Boston's true hidden gems.
From the outside, Shanti is rather eye-catching, with large windows giving drivers a good view of the exotic interior of the restaurant, especially after the sun goes down. The atmosphere inside is cozy and somewhat romantic, with candles and Hindu statues giving the warmly-lit restaurant a moody, sultry feel to it. There is plenty of room inside, and the place is rarely crowded, which makes Shanti a great option for a weekend night.
There are certainly some great Indian restaurants around Boston, but few match the quality of the items on Shanti's menu. For appetizers, it is tough to beat the aloo tikki (fried potato patties with white peas and spices), the pureed mulligatawny soup, and the hearty poori (puffy, unleavened whole wheat bread) and slightly sweet naan (leavened flatbread) offered here. One of the best choices for this last item is the peshawary naan, which is a delightfully tasty treat with coconut, raisins, almonds, and pistachio nuts. For entrees, the murg (chicken) tikka masala has an outstanding array of herbs and spices mixed in with its creamy sauce, while the murg vindaloo is fiery hot and also has a number of flavorful spices mixed in. The biryani at Shanti is tremendous, with the mix of long-grain rice, herbs, spices, meat, and vegetables making for a rich and complex tasting dish. Other entrees worth checking out at Shanti include the murg shaag (chicken with spinach and spices), which doesn't quite reach the greatness of that of Kebab Factory in Somerville, but is good in its own right, and the Tandoori chicken kebabs, which are tender and perfectly marinated.
Shanti is one of several excellent restaurants in the Dorchester section of Boston, and, much like some of the others, it is a real find. The food, while a bit pricey for this type of cuisine, is outstanding, parking is not all that difficult, the Savin Hill T Stop is within walking distance, and as mentioned earlier, it is usually easy to get a seat here. In short, there is little not to like about Shanti, a restaurant that lovers of Indian food will probably wish that they had found sooner. [Ed note--locations of Shanti can now be found in Roslindale and Cambridge as well.]
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