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Cheap Eats

Indian fare that feels right at home

Mixed-grill dish at Singh's Cafe A mixed-grill dish comes with rack of lamb and tandoori chicken. (Michele McDonald for the Boston Globe)
By Louise Kennedy
Globe Correspondent / February 23, 2011

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An Indian restaurant in Wellesley is a rare find. A bargain here is an even rarer find. But a bargain Indian restaurant? Unimaginable — unless you’ve discovered Singh’s Cafe.

Singh’s occupies the ill-fated below-street-level space in a nondescript brick building on Washington Street that has seen a number of restaurants (most recently Vela) come and go. But this one feels like a keeper. For one thing, Singh’s Cafe does a bustling take-out and delivery business, making the slightly odd location less of an impediment. For another, it has a full bar — yet another welcome anomaly in this town. And then there’s the daily attraction of a lunch buffet, with an ever-changing menu of items both familiar and unexpected. It’s $7.95 weekdays, $11.95 on weekends (try sticking to that budget for any other brunch-time buffet).

Most important, though, is the food. Chef-owner Harpreet Singh produces consistently fresh textures and cleanly focused flavors, thanks, no doubt, to his insistence on grinding his own spices every day. The care shows in everything from a deliciously pure spinach-ness in the Punjabi dish sarson ka saag to the delicate flecks of spice in the basmati rice. Even such standard condiments as the mango chutney display an unusual clarity and punch.

Singh also owns the Kebab Factory in Somerville, so it’s no surprise that the selection of kebabs here is extensive and appealing. Singh’s non-vegetarian appetizer platter is an easy way to sample a few, from succulent chicken to fragrant lamb. But that means you won’t have room for the vegetarian platter; you’d better at least order a couple of vegetable samosas, which are flaky without, just moist and spicy enough within.

Wash down the apps with Flying Horse, Taj, or another Indian beer, then move on to the main courses. Punjabi dishes are a specialty and reliably tasty, but we don’t find any weak spots in the other corners of the extensive menu, either. On a dinner visit, lamb rogan josh, smoothly enrobed in its warm red sauce, is particularly addictive.

The generous portions and enticing variety barely leave room for dessert, especially as the friendly waitress brings a creamy, soothing salty lassi to accompany the Punjabi saag. (That is the second unexpected treat of the evening, after an amuse-bouche that paired a tender shrimp with a tiny cup of magically complex tomato soup.) Still, we can’t resist ordering kheer, that milky improvement on standard-issue rice pudding — for the toddler, we tell ourselves. Never mind that, when the gracious and unhurried service extends to playing with the baby while we chat over tea, we can’t stop eating every last spoonful ourselves.

Louise Kennedy can be reached at louisekennedy330@gmail.com.

SINGH’S CAFE

312 Washington St. (Route 16), Wellesley, 781-235-1666, www.singhscafe.com. All major cards. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Appetizers $3.95-$10.95. Entrees $10.95-$21.95. Desserts $2.95-$4.95.

Hours Mon-Thu 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat noon-10:30 p.m., Sun noon-10 p.m.

Liquor Full bar.

May we suggest Sarson ka saag, lamb rogan josh, appetizer platters, salty lassi.

Ratings

  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor