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[Cheap Eats]

Royal India
Eat like a king
BY STACY WAGNER

on the cheap
Tu y Yo Cafť Belo Pad Thai Cafť Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery

Remember when the idea of Indian cuisine was exotic? It still can be. You may think youíve sampled all that India has to offer, but unless youíve been to Royal India, Bostonís first and only Bengali restaurant, the odds are you havenít. At Royal India, you can choose from an array of traditional Northern Indian fare, but the menuís also swimming with uniquely Bengali fish dishes.

The restaurant is small and cozy, with artwork ranging from images of Krishna to Matisse reproductions. Ponder the eclectic atmosphere while enjoying an appetizer of vegetable pakoras ($3.50). Fried to perfection (and does this place know how to fry!), the five pieces disappear just in time for the arrival of the entrées. For those who like it hot, the chicken vindaloo ($9.25) is a spicy specialty tempered by a side of fluffy naan or sweet saffron-flavored basmati rice. Vegetarian patrons should go for the matar paneer ($8.95), consisting of fresh peas and homemade cheese cubes in a savory sauce of onion, tomato, yogurt, and Indian spices. Then thereís the fish. If fried food is your bag, donít hesitate to order the maachh bhaja ($8.95), though for just a little more, the shorshe ilish ($9.95) gives you a taste of Bengalís favorite fish in a zesty ground-mustard sauce. Royal India also offers a daily lunch buffet for $5.95.

Itís a good idea to wind down with an order of badami kulfi ($2.95), Indian ice cream loaded with saffron, almonds, and pistachios. Youíre guaranteed to leave the restaurant stuffed to the gills, but with a sublime understanding of Bengali regal eats.

Royal India, located at 313 Mass Ave, in Cambridge, is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call (617) 491-1988.

Issue Date: August 16-23, 2001