Seafood might not spring to mind when you think of Indian cuisine. Chicken tikka masala, sure. Lentils? Yep. Tandoori? Of course. But seafood?
Why not? India's coastline stretches some 4600-odd miles along the Arabian and Laccadive Seas, and, in the Eastern part of the country, the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of harbor towns, as well as the major cities of Chennai and Mumbai, are right on the water. Once we Bostonians reconcile the fact that there are more options than the Maine-style dipped-in-butter preparation, Indian seafood isn't the oxymoron it might first appear.
Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen reveals, dish by tantalizing dish, the bounty of the sea within a decadent background of Southern Indian flavors. That means a lot of spice, like cardamom, chilies, and black pepper, but also refreshing tastes like coconut and tamarind. Kerala Fish Stew, from a region at the Southwest tip of the Indian peninsula, is a prime example―it’s a creamy compound of tomato, coconut, chunks of Mahi Mahi, and spheres of silky smooth potato.
A winning recipe from Mangalore, a Southern city overlooking the Arabian Sea, also stars on the menu. Manglorean Lobster is a stunningly presented lobster tail with a rich, buttery sauce, tasting faintly of the sweet saltiness of shellfish.
In comparison to that scarlet shell and golden gravy, Lalla Musa Dal might not look like much―a mud-colored mess pebbled with black lentils―but we all know looks aren’t everything. At Tamarind Bay, black lentils cook overnight with tomatoes, onion, ginger, and spices, until they are soft but still intact. The slow simmer creates a velvety-smooth, luxurious mixture with smokiness and a bit of heat.
There’s plenty for diners who aren’t interested in seafood. Murgh Hari Mirch Tikka, chicken marinated in yogurt and green chilies, showcased supremely moist, tender tender, straight from the Tandoor oven. Palak Elaichi Murg, a creamy chicken curry with spinach, cardamom, and cashews, has a subtle herbal tinge accented by mild spice.
Spinach and Potato Tikki patties, with their quiet ginger notes, are kind of like Indian latkes, served with sour cream. Break open the crispy shell of a Vegetable Samosa to release steam from the fleecy, flavorful interior.
Tamarind Bay has carefully considered how accompaniments, like fluffy Basmati rice and gently blistered naan, will alter our perception of each dish. Eaten alone, curries might have a bit too much salt or oil, but the neutrality of these Indian staples balances them out.
Even some of the cocktails from the full bar are meant to complement and refresh; a lychee martini that was stiff and acerbic on its own shone alongside the strong palate of spice in the curries. This well-crafted menu, delighting in bold flavors from the Southern Indian coast, is intriguing that way.
Tamarind Bay Coastal Indian Kitchen is open for a lunch buffet Friday through Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., and for dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m. 1665 Beacon St, Brookline. MBTA: Green Line (C) to Tappan Street.