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India Pavilion

For more than three millennia, the Indian subcontinent was ruled by a plethora of powerful dynasties vying for territory. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the global Indian restaurant market is also heavily dynastic—recall the infamous Berkeley Indian restaurant magnate, Deepak Agarwal (a.k.a. Deepak Shakur). During our visit to India Pavilion (IP), in the heart of Central Square in Cambridge, we learned of Deepak’s Cambridge counterpart, Mohan Singh, whose territory extends north-south across the heart of the city with ownership of IP, PD, and Froyogi.  IP, the flagship restaurant of the Singh dynasty, opened its doors over 30 years ago, during the dark ages of Central Square.  In fact, the restaurant still displays a prominent sign “NO DRUGS”—perhaps a relic from that crime-ridden epoch.

Despite the geographic separation of the Shakur and Singh Dynasties, their bicoastal establishments feature the most critical yet useless element of restaurant décor: the ornate wooden screen hawked by Restaurant Depot. And, like all empire builders, Singh and Shakur understand the importance of diversification: whereas Shakur owned taxi businesses and sought to corner the East Bay spice trade, Singh markets his own brand of Garam Masala, on prominent display at IP in neatly arranged glass jars with mis-oriented labels. Unlike the crude interior of PD, however, IP’s interior was immaculate, with comfortable chairs, well arranged tables, a pleasing color scheme, and balanced lighting, attributes befitting the stature of the great Singh dynasty.

Notably, IP’s kitchen faced the dining area, separated by a transparent window. This allowed us to observe the preparation of our food in real time, and we were pleased by what we saw. The meal began with peshawari nan ($5), which was fresh, tasty, but a tad undercooked. The poori ($4) was plasmatic on arrival, but rapidly deflated, leaving behind less impressive and more doughy morsels upon cooling. The goat curry ($14) was tender and the navrattan korma ($10) was very flavorful with excellent cookitude. Surprisingly, we learned that the aloo gobi, while offered, was an off-menu item. Its omission, though sacreligious, was a good choice, as the dish lacked appropriate potato cookitude and was bland despite our requests for extreme spice levels. The mango lassi ($4) was excellent, with a viscous texture and an essence of kewra, the extract from the flower of a screwpine plant.

Despite a few critical missteps, IP is a solid four samosa restaurant (▲▲▲▲) with a with a high-end three rupee (₨ ₨ ₨) price tag.  However, despite IP’s apparent preeminence, the Singh dynasty, too, will someday fall.  Will it succumb to Mongol invaders, or the slow eastward march of the Shakur empire?  Time will tell, and history will be written by the victors, so experience this jewel before its inevitable plunder!

Name: India Pavilion
Address: 17 Central Square, Cambridge
Phone: 617-547-7463
Website: indiapavilioncambridge.com
Our Yelp review
Delivery: Yes

 

 

CAMBRIDGE + SOMERVILLE REVIEWS

BERKELEY REVIEWS

GLOBAL REVIEWS

RATINGS (CAMBRIDGE + SOMERVILLE)

India Pavilion
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

The Maharaja
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

India Castle
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Harvest of India
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Guru the Caterer
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨

The Kebab Factory
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Desi Dhaba
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Chutney's
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Passage to India
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Dosa Factory
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Shalimar of India
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Frozen Yogi
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨

Punjabi Dhaba
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Tanjore
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Dosa-n-Curry
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

RATINGS (GLOBAL)

Milan Indian Cuisine (Charlottesville, Va.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

UA 84
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+++

Amber Moon (Burlingame, Calif.)
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

India Quality (Boston, Mass.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Little India Restaurant (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Bhanu’s Indian Grocery and Cuisine (San Gabriel, Calif.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨

Udupi Bhavan (Middletown, Conn.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Whip In (Austin, Tex.)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

RATINGS (BERKELEY)

Hare Krishna Temple (ISKCON Berkeley)
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨–

Indus Village Restaurant
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨

East Bay Spice Company
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

K.P. Café
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Bombay Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Vik's Chaat Corner
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨ ₨

Yak 'n' Yeti (now Chulo)
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

House of Curries (College)
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨

India Chaat & Sweets
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Tikka Korner
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨

Kabana Restaurant
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Chaat Café
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Mehak Indian Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Viceroy
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Namaste Madras Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Punjabi by Nature
Rating: ▲△△△△
Price: ₨

Priya Indian Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨

Mint Leaf Indian Bistro
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+

Everest Cafe
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Khana Peena Indian Cuisine
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Ajanta
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+

Breads of India & Gourmet Curries
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Zaika
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Mount Everest Restaurant
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨

Biryani House
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Himalayan Flavors
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Flavors of India
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨

Udupi Palace
Rating: ▲▲▲▲▲
Price: ₨ ₨

Naan 'N' Curry
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨

House of Curries (Durant)
Rating: ▲▲△△△
Price: ₨

Taste of the Himalayas
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨ ₨ ₨+

Urbann Turbann
Rating: ▲▲▲▲△
Price: ₨

Indian Flavor Express
Rating: ▲▲▲△△
Price: ₨

LEGEND

▲▲▲▲▲ — Exquisite
Worthy of out-of-town guests.

▲▲▲▲△ — Very good
To be sought out if at all possible.

▲▲▲△△ — Acceptable
A reasonable choice if no four-samosa restaurant is nearby.

▲▲△△△ — Bad
The food won't kill you, but you should never choose to eat here.

▲△△△△ — Horrible
The food may kill you. Never eat here. Choose starvation instead.

₨ ₨ ₨ — Pricey ( > $20 / person )
₨ ₨ — Average ( $15 / person )
₨ — Cheap ( $10 / person )

Note that the above prices apply to Berkeley. A per-person increase of $5-10 can be expected in pricier Cambridge and Somerville.

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