At our place, there are takeout nights — and then there are Shanti nights. Because everything about this Indian food is elevated: The flavors are layered, the spices are pronounced, and the servings are outsized. We frequent the restaurant’s Roslindale outpost, which has an ample dining room right off of Adams Park. There’s also a location open in Dorchester.
Favorites, to start, are the samosas or the vegetarian Shanti Platter, which includes delicious and filling pakora — our toddler, especially, appreciates these chickpea battered-and-fried delights. For a more adventurous opener, try one of their varieties of chaat, an Indian street food. We recently enjoyed the Papri’s balance of flavor (sweet, but not too sweet, tamarind) and crunch (homemade chips), with medium spice.
Saag Paneer is in nearly every order we’ve placed with Shanti: Those roughly cut cubes of the specialty cheese, immersed in a fragrant spinach sauce, are both good that evening and for lunch a few days later. For vegetarians and vegetable lovers alike, the Aloo Gobi — a dish filled with cauliflower, potatoes, and peas — is also worth your while.
For meat-based dishes, we recently enjoyed the Shrimp Rogan Josh, with its pungent cilantro and creamy tomato sauce (you can order it without cilantro). But when we’re feeling decadent or celebratory, we go with the Shrimp Korma — a preparation that, like the Rogan Josh, can go with any protein, and features cream, ginger, and cashew for a richness and crunch. We’ve also loved the Chicken Biryani, though we round down on the spice level and use ample yogurt sauce to cool the heat.
While you can’t go wrong with any of the naan offerings, the straight-up garlic variety never disappoints, and it is especially useful for picking up the leftover sauce of the aforementioned Korma dish. On a more adventurous kick, we’ve also tried the Peshawary Naan, a sweeter variety with raisins and coconut.
And no Shanti takeout meal is complete without their sauces, which add so much to that meal and beyond: The mixed pickle is different and delicious, but the first container to empty at our table is always mint chutney. We’ve used the remnants in these little plastic containers to spice up our own meals, such as regular rice and beans.
It’s worth noting that Shanti recently announced they would add a 4 percent “kitchen appreciation fee” to boost the back-of-the-house staff — an increasingly common addition to the tab at many restaurants in Jamaica Plain or Roslindale. And keep an eye out for their specials, which are more like culinary programming than blue-plate dishes: We loved their Diwali Feast To-Go, and now they also offer DIY meal kits.
Shanti Restaurant, 4197 Washington St., Roslindale, 617-325-3900, www.shantiboston.com. Appetizers $6-$12, soups and salads $4-$8, roti $3-$6, entrees $14-$23.
SHIRA T. CENTER
Shaking Seafood, Roslindale
Sometimes it takes an outsider to introduce you to the culinary delights in your own backyard.
When my niece from Arkansas was here over the holidays, she asked if we could have a seafood boil for New Year’s Eve, and a little Googling led us to Shaking Seafood in Roslindale. Suddenly, our takeout world got a lot more exciting. This New Orleans-style boil is nothing like the corned beef and cabbage variety of New England. This is Cajun food, with crawfish, crab, mussels, or almost any type of shellfish you desire doused in garlicky, buttery, salty, Old Bay-y goodness, cooked with corn on the cob and potatoes, and delivered in a big plastic bag.
It’s not glamorous, but it’s gooood.
So who’s making Cajun food in Boston? A Chinese family, it turns out — one that fell in love with Cajun food after moving to the United States and applied it to their seafood expertise. They live in Boston and Philadelphia, and operate Shaking Seafood restaurants in both cities.
For New Year’s, we got a combo of snow crab legs and shrimp with sausages and boiled eggs, all drenched in Shaking Sauce, which combines all the sauce offerings: Cajun, garlic butter, and lemon pepper. I can’t imagine having to pick just one. We were skeptical of the eggs, but my niece insisted, and we were won over after just one bite. They’re soft and creamy and absorb just the right amount of that addictive sauce. We dumped everything in one big bowl, cooked up a pot of rice, and chowed down. This is a messy, eat-with-your-fingers affair, though we largely ignored the bibs, plastic gloves, and wet naps in our takeout bag.
When we ordered again recently, we treated ourselves to a lobster and shrimp combo, again with sausages, and extra eggs this time, along with corn, potatoes, and broccoli. The broccoli seemed like a healthy addition at the time, although it was swimming in so much sauce it hardly seemed like a vegetable — and we didn’t mind at all. Our 6-year-old went for the eggs immediately, but thankfully she wasn’t interested in the sweet, meaty lobster.
A seafood boil is a great celebration meal, provided everyone likes Old Bay and doesn’t mind getting a little messy. The restaurant doesn’t deliver to us, so we went through Grubhub, which meant not only higher prices but a limited menu. Someday I’ll get to try the frozen mango smoothie and limoncello cake. But for now I’m content to turn the leftovers into a tremendous shrimp po’boy lunch — another perk of our fleeting work-from-home world.
Shaking Seafood, 19 Poplar St., Roslindale, 617-553-2751, (also 1616 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617-506-8823) shakingseafood.com. (Shaking boil bags, with three types of seafood, $23-$49; fried baskets $12.95-$20.95; desserts $6.95)
Steel & Rye, Milton
A seemingly long, long time ago, my husband and I ventured south from Cambridge to the wilds of the Dorchester/Milton border to try a new restaurant we’d heard raves about: Steel & Rye. I wandered into the retrofitted ambulance garage, ordered the bucatini, and have been raving about the place myself ever since.
Flash forward seven years, and Steel & Rye is now one of my neighborhood restaurants, but it still feels special, perhaps even moreso now as the pandemic pushes on into its third year. In the warmer months, I’ve lingered for hours out on the patios co-owners Dan Kerrigan and Bill Scannell have expanded out into the parking lot. But when the temperature drops and I feel like staying in, I’m happy to go ham on their take-out menu, knowing it will feed me for days.
That’s thanks in part to the fact that in the spring of 2020, Kerrigan and Scannell made the brilliant move to open a bakery and cafe inside the restaurant, which for me means that any takeout order also involves a loaf of crusty lemon, rosemary, and garlic flecked sourdough. And probably some pizza dough, too.
But I’m hard-pressed to try and recreate what they’ve mastered. Their margarita pies have a perfectly charred thin crust, and are spiked with garlic and a tomato sauce so sweet it feels like dessert. My kids devour it instantly, so I’m lucky if I get a bite.
Luckily, the pizza serves to distract them from our grown-up fare. I still go weak in the knees for their pastas, so for me it’s the crave-worthy lobster cavatelli, blanketed in breadcrumbs and with chunks of lobster mingled throughout. My husband caves whenever gnocchi is on the menu, so he ducks into the pillowy potato dumplings luxuriating in Bolognese and mingling with swiss chard. The Caesar salad we ordered to be “healthy” comes with a perfectly sunny soft-boiled egg, and is studded with thick parmesan shavings. Delicious, all of it.
Did I mention the chips? The thick-cut, salty potato slices are so good we always order two bags, with the pimento cheese dip, of course. And part of the fun of getting Steel & Rye takeout is also tacking on something surprising for the rest of the week. Maybe it’s a six-pack of ginger molasses cookies, a bottle of Vietnamese cold brew coffee or pre-mixed Negronis, or a container of house-made lemon bucatini.
I can only hope to draw some of the same raves at home.