An Indian food-court stall delivers the home-style goods
Hooking up with a great cheap-eats restaurant can be like finding romance: you can scour the wide world in vain, then one day discover something terrific right under your nose. I'm a frequent habitué of the food court at the Super 88 Market in Allston, but J.M.P. International always struck me as an odd duck, a lone South Asian purveyor among the Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese stalls. When I finally gave it an overdue spin, I discovered that this little counter-service place serves tasty, fresh-made pan-regional Indian cuisine in heaping portions.
Meat samosas ($3.95/two) make a great first impression: big, pyramid-shaped fried turnovers of ground lamb and chopped scallions, served with the trio of onion relish, cilantro/mint chutney, and tamarind sauce in cunning mini paper cups. Vegetable pakoras ($2.95/eight) are crisp, irregular little fritters with the same condiments. Breads are baked or griddled to order, like very fine naan ($1.95) and chapati ($2.25). Of the numerous kababs, chapli ($8.95) — ground chicken seasoned with pomegranate seeds — is unusual and very good. Familiar, richly spiced Punjabi stews ($4.95–$7.95/lunch; $5.95–$9.95/dinner) like curry and tikka masala form the heart of the menu, with options of chicken, lamb, shrimp, paneer (firm, mild farmer cheese), or vegetables. Of these, the saag (spinach cooked to melting tenderness) and korma (a Mughal curry creamy with ground cashews) are particularly fine. The vinegary, Portuguese-influenced Goan vindaloo ($5.95–$10.95) is only mildly fiery here. Gravies are home-style-thin, the better to soak your bread or pile of fragrant basmati.
The can't-miss dish might be Hyderabadi-style biryani ($6.95–$8.95), complexly seasoned rice with fried onions and a slow chili burn cooled by raita; the super-tender, grainy lamb is especially nice. South India is represented by dosas ($5.95–$7.95), wide, crisp rice-and-lentil-flour crêpes rolled around various savory fillings like masala (potato curry), with watery sambar (lentil stew) on the side. Given the chef's Mumbai roots, I half-expected to see pav bhaji, the vegetable-curry street-food sandwich; we get close here with the chicken or lamb tikka roll ($5.95–$6.95). Drink options include milky, sweet-spiced masala tea ($1.95), yogurt-based lassi ($2.50–$3.50) in sweet, mango, and salty versions, and American sodas ($1.50). If you can abide food-court trappings like Styrofoam tableware and spottily cleaned tables, J.M.P. delivers great value. Its fresh, generously laden fare makes it a worthy member of this essential Boston budget-dining venue's rotation.
J.M.P. International Foods, located in the food court of Super 88 Market, 1095 Commonwealth Avenue, in Allston, is open daily from 11 am–11 pm. Call 617.787.9700.
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