Only a couple of decades ago, it was tough to find a Boston-area Indian restaurant serving anything beyond Punjabi and Mughal dishes, with perhaps a scattering of Goan vindaloos. Southern Indian food debuted locally only 15 years ago. Thanks to an influx of ex-pats and H-1B workers in recent years, regional diversity has further improved: it is now possible to find local exponents of Bengali, Pakistani, Hyderabadi, and Indian-Chinese cuisine, not to mention the occasional Mumbai street-food snacks. We're seeing more halal options, better-quality buffets, more traditional preparations. Even notoriously bland, meat-and-potatoes South Boston now has a good Indian takeout.
That encouraging trend is further evidenced with the debut of Darul Kabab in the former home of a KFC near Porter Square - the spot features halal Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Northern Indian fare, prepared by a chef from Delhi. Appetizers start strong with unusual versions of classic snacks like koliza singara ($1.50 each), a pyramidal fried turnover stuffed with coarsely chopped chicken liver accented with fresh cilantro, served with two vivid chutneys: shocking-turquoise mint and brick-toned tamarind. Haleem ($5) is a generous portion of a moderately fiery stew of lentils and bone-in pieces of goat; it's gorgeously spiced, but a lack of bulgur makes it a soupier, less porridge-y variant. An array of beautiful kabab plates ($6.99–$9.99) feature perfectly charred, moist chunks of meat or vegetables, including a worthy grilled seekh kabab (ground, sweet-spiced beef; $7.99) and tandoor (clay oven) roasted chicken ($7.50); these plates include excellent basmati rice or fine naan that tastes freshly baked, plus a simple salad and cooling raita (cucumber-yogurt-mint dip).
Vegetable entrées include classic legume stews like chana dal (whole chickpeas; $4.99) and makhni daal (black lentils; $8.99); the latter startles with fierce, fresh ginger. Curries cover a lot of regional ground as well, from Pakistani dishes like oily, onion-rich beef bhuna ($7.99) to a Bangladeshi fish curry ($7.99) based on tilapia filets. Weekends also feature rarely seen specialties like paya ($7.99), a spicy cow's-foot stew, and nehari ($8.99), a ferocious beef-shank curry. Beverage options include fine, sweet yogurt-based drinks like banana lassi ($3), savory yogurt drinks like borhani ($1.99), masala tea ($1.49), and American soft drinks ($1.99). Despite the humble setting, there's no confusing the abundance of fresh herbs, intensity of spice flavors, judiciously applied chili fire, and extraordinarily solicitous service here with any quick-service operation. (One fast-food vestige, free parking, is certainly welcome.) Darul Kabab is yet another wide-ranging, high-quality, nice-priced restaurant that adds to the growing evidence that these are good days indeed for Bostonians who love the cuisine of the subcontinent.
Darul Kabab, located at 2072 Mass Ave in Cambridge, is open from Monday–Saturday, 10 am–10 pm, and Sunday, 10 am–8 pm. Call 617.354.4010.