Shanti – Cambridge, MA
7 Broad Canal Way Cambridge, MA 02142
Vegan Four Course Dinner Series
CJ and I love our date nights, especially during the week to reconnect and slow things down since we both tend to run in different directions Monday through Friday.
One of our favorite date night experiences around Boston took place last summer at Shanti, a Boston area Indian restaurant when they hosted a four course prix fixe vegan dinner. Yes – all vegan. And even better for me, mostly gluten-free.
Last summer’s dessert is one will still talk about, and honestly, has raised the bar for all desserts when we dine out.
We were so excited to hear that Shanti is offering another Vegan Four Course Dinner series this summer at not one, but two of its locations.
Every Monday in Roslindale and every Tuesday at the new location in Kendall Square throughout August.
And even better, the ENTIRE prix fixe vegan menu is also gluten-free.
Last year’s dinner in June took place on a rainy and gloomy evening, and the Roslindale location was like a welcoming hug with its warm colors and rich smell of spices.
This summer offered a different experience. The gloom of the morning gave way to a stunning Indian Summer August evening.
The golden sunshine that filtered through the trees around Shanti’s patio seating on Broad Canal Way offered a gentle reminder that summer is not yet over, the soft chill in the air and the subtle crisp crinkle of the leaves subtle signs that fall is not too far away.
Shanti’s Kendall Square location opened earlier this year, conveniently located a short walk from the Kendall Square/MIT Red Line MBTA stop.
Simply sipping on a crisp Chenin Blanc from Sula Vineyards in Shanti’s bright and open space was a lovely Tuesday evening in and of itself.
But – there was much more.
I will admit, CJ and I had pretty high expectations for this year’s four-course vegan dinner, especially after we looked at the menu.
Shanti and Chef Andy did not disappoint.
Balanced is one word that sticks out in my mind about this year’s dinner experience.
Balanced in very sort of way.
Balanced in textures, flavors, spices…and even balanced between the seasons, summer and fall.
But more on that to come.
The Papadum* we enjoyed so much last year returned again to start the meal.
The airy and crispy cracker made with black lentil flour was accompanied by three different chutneys, Onion Chutney, Mint Chutney, and Tamarind Chutney. This light starter boasted contrasting colors and flavors, a theme that would run throughout the entire dining experience.
Another theme of the dinner – simply stunning presentation.
CJ and I both adore fresh asparagus, and we were particularly looking forward to the Asparagus Soup.
Edible flowers and chickpea crackers filled the bottom of each soup bowl before ladles of a boldly flavored, richly colored, silky soup were poured over top.
Made with coconut milk and turmeric, it was an Asparagus Soup like no other.
The warmth and richness of turmeric enveloped the mouth, the subtle fresh sweetness of the asparagus lingering in the background. The chickpea crackers offered a lovely texture contrast, a hint of crunch playing against silky smooth.
I usually get bored with silky smooth soups after the first few bites, but the balance in texture and my current obsession with turmeric kept sending my spoon back for more.
This soup paired very well with both Sula’s floral Chenin Blanc and its crisp, light Sauvignon Blanc. (We made a mental note to try and find Sula’s wine for our own wine collection).
Balance in color, texture, and flavor was obvious in the second course’s Potato and Mushroom Tikki before even taking a bite.
Made with kidney beans, onions, green peas, ginger, chat masala, and tomato chutney, this dish was fluffy and light, yet hearty all at the same time.
A kick from the ginger stood out with each bite, but the edge softened by the brightness of the playful vegetable garnishes.
The other option for the second course was…wait for it…
THE BEST SALAD IN THE HISTORY OF SALADS.
The Chef’s Salad, with its deep colors and mixed textures, was presented like a work of art.
A messy pile of heirloom carrots, roasted beets, pomegranate arils, mixed greens, and pine nuts came together with a stunningly purple blueberry vinaigrette.
This is the first salad I hogged from CJ. I’m picky about my salads; I don’t typically care for fruity dressings since they tend to be too sweet, but the blueberry vinaigrette on this Chef’s Salad was perfection. It highlights the natural essence of blueberries without a dessert-like sweetness.
The earthiness of the beets and carrots balanced beautifully with the natural sweetness of the blueberry vinaigrette, the tartness of the pomegranate arils, and nuttiness of the pine nuts.
I consider this salad the Perfect Storm of salads, the different components coming together to form one super salad even me, the picky salad eater, could not resist.
Sula’s Shiraz, with its jammy and peppery notes, paired well with both second course dishes.
The dishes of the third course boasted more spice and heat than last year’s courses, the inspiration of these dishes more from Western India than Southern India.
The bold Tandoori Cauliflower was balanced by the more mellow, smooth lentil purée.
The cauliflower was cooked perfectly – soft, yet with bite – which CJ the Cauliflower Connoisseur appreciated (and so did his fork).
This dish packs a punch, but one that is softened by the lentils and basmati rice.
A summer heat wave with a cool, fall reprieve.
The other third course dish, Tofu Mattar, featured the best tofu we’ve tasted at a restaurant.
The silken tofu was soft and tender, but with so much texture. Light as air, but hearty enough to slice with the edge of your fork. (Bonus: The tofu is made locally in Jamaica Plain). Yellow peas, fresh spinach, and spices accompanied this King of All Tofu for fork fulls of flavor bliss.
The tomato rice, rather than being mere filler, added another layer of flavor to this multi-layered dish.
Both the Chenin Blanc and the Sauvignon Blanc that paired well with the Asparagus Soup also paired very well with both third course dishes. Their floral, fruity, and sweet notes tempered the heat and spice.
When we were presented with the final course – and one CJ was looking forward to the whole evening after he saw the Beet and Carrot Tower description – he announced, “This is a dessert you make fit.”
He also later made an eye-rolling pun too good not to include here: “You can’t BEET this dessert.”
The Carrot and Beet Tower, with its brown sugar, fresh currants, saffron, and coconut gastrique, was a gorgeous coming together of summer and fall.
The coconut flavor of the gastrique made me immediately think of a sunny summer day on the beach, but the earthiness of the beets and carrots and the burnt, caramelized flavors of the brown sugar web-of-magic reminiscent of chilly, smoky early fall evenings.
The tart currants and back notes of floral-honey saffron were subtle little details, but so beautifully placed on the palate after each bite.
Last year’s beet dessert left us in awe, and we didn’t think it could be
beet beat (see, now there I go with the puns).
Somehow, Chef Andy blew us away again.
Every course of this year’s vegan dinner was sublime, but if you had to twist our arms – our favorites were:
Me: The Salad.
CJ: The Tofu Mattar.
The dessert was in a whole other realm of its own.
August is the month that bridges summer and fall. It embodies the warmth of summer, but the lightness of fall.
This entire dinner was a culinary expression of this seasonal bridge: the heat of the spices like the heat wave of summer, and the earthy, subtly sweet flavors and textures like the rich vibrancy of fall.
While this dinner is entirely vegan and gluten-free, it’s a meal anyone will enjoy. Seriously.
It’s also a special meal and date night that won’t break the bank. The four-course prix fixe vegan dinner only costs $35 per person.
Shanti is offering this special menu from 6pm – 10pm every Monday in August at the Roslindale location and every Tuesday at the Cambridge location. Call 617.325.3900 (Roslindale) or 617.714.5051 (Cambridge) to reserve your spot for a truly special and rich dining experience.
Be sure to bring a pal or a loved one so you can try every item on the menu and three different types of Sula wine made in India.
*While the ingredients of the papadum are gluten-free, they are fried in the same oil as non-gluten items. Be sure to discuss your gluten sensitivity and needs with your Shanti server.
Disclosure: Shanti graciously offered to compensate my experience of this Vegan Dinner series. Thank you, Shanti! All opinions in this review are 100% my own. Transparency, trust, and integrity with my readers are my utmost priority. Please know I will never accept any form of payment or goods in exchange for a positive review.