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Tara Lee

Shalimar of India, located in Central Square, offers a wide and inexpensive variety of options.

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546 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge

Mon-Thurs: 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Fri & Sat: 11:30 a.m.–11:00 p.m.

Sunday: 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

For many, IAP is a time to learn the invaluable life skill of cooking. But IAP is also a great time to explore the restaurants that Cambridge has to offer, especially those near campus. A brief walk down Massachusetts Avenue yields Shalimar of India, a mid-size restaurant in Central Square.

The atmosphere at Shalimar engages all the senses, with traditional Indian music booming in the background, works of Indian art upon the walls, and the inviting aroma of the lunch buffet up front. I sampled Shalimar’s all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, offered daily from 11am-3pm at the remarkable price of $8.95, including about 15 options to choose from.

With a wonderful consistency and neutral flavor, the naan (flatbread) pairs well with the various curries and spices at the buffet. I first tried it along with the chicken tikka masala, a classic tomato curry dish. This version of the tikka masala has a noticeably strong tomato flavor, however, and it almost tastes like a thick, tomato soup because it is not spicy at all. Nevertheless, the flavor of the dish is exceptionally bold, and it also balances well with the jasmine white rice.

The beef vindaloo, on the other hand, is so spicy that the spiciness practically overwhelms the flavor of the dish. I usually do not mind spicy foods, but this beef dish took me aback because I tried it right after the mild tikka masala. In terms of temperature, the vindaloo was also significantly hotter than the tikka masala, so I would have appreciated a more consistent level for both temperature and spiciness. The beef was tangy and had a strong flavor that again pairs well with the neutral rice and naan.

Lastly, I sampled the chole, a vegetarian chickpea dish. I generally find chickpeas to be quite bland alone, but the dish included enough unique spices to create a savory flavor.

With bold flavors and a wide variety of options, I was pleased with Shalimar. The extremely reasonable lunch buffet price will certainly bring me back to this Indian restaurant again soon.