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[Cheap Eats]

Gourmet India
Fast and fresh
BY MICHELE NETTO

on the cheap
Royal India Leeís Beehive Paris White Horse Tavern

As a rule, when a fast-food place includes the word " gourmet " in its name, itís a sure sign the menu will be anything but. Fortunately, there are exceptions to most rules.

Though few would classify Gourmet India in Coolidge Corner as high-end, the restaurantís offerings well represent its country. Here youíll find the mainstays of Indian cuisine ó chicken and lamb vindaloo, masala, tandoori, and kabobs, along with a handful of vegetarian dishes. The chicken tandoori ($5.95) is marinated for 24 hours in yogurt and spices, then baked on skewers in a tandoor ó a charcoal-fired clay oven. The extra-long process (itís common these days to marinate the chicken for 12 hours or less) may account for its redder-than-red color, which is a pleasant surprise. The reshami kabob ($5.95), diced chicken marinated in cream sauce with a touch of mint, and again prepared in a tandoor, lives up to its name: reshami, in Hindi, means " silken, " and the meat is quite tender and perfectly cubed into bite-size pieces.

The main courses hold their own, but the naan alone is worth the trip. Each entrée comes with a choice of Basmati rice or a side of this traditional, non-leavened bread. Go for the naan. Itís prepared fresh and rivals many of its higher-priced cousins in the area. With 10 selections of naan on the menu, ranging from rich spinach to Peshawari layered with raisins, dried fruit, and coconut (both $2.85), there are choices sure to interest everyone at the table.

The atmosphere is like that of a generic sandwich shop, but if you choose to dine in, thereís ample seating, and the staff will bring you your meal after you place your order and pay at the counter. The Indian music, according to a dinner companion who grew up in Delhi, is " suitably unclear, " and not unlike whatís played at the most popular Indian truck stops. Thatís clearly a compliment.

Gourmet India, located at 1335 Beacon Street, in Brookline, is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Call (617) 734-3971. A second location is in the Burlington Mall food court.

Issue Date: September 13 - 20, 2001