- F & B
Recently we were discussing amongst ourselves as to how Indian food is probably the most difficult to present compared to other cuisines. After all, we wondered how do you make bhindi masala or butter chicken look appealing and more interesting than usual. Restaurateur Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library gave us the answer to the butter chicken but we will have to go back again to see what they do with the okra.
The Masala Library is located on the ground floor of the First International Financial Centre at Bandra Kurla Complex. Don’t expect to get a table without a reservation which is available at either 8pm or 10.30pm. We wish the décor did as much for the restaurant as the food and presentation does. Generic dark wood screens and furniture are offset by a textured wall that gives one the feeling of walking into a cave in the mountains of the North West Frontier. Adding to the confusion is a line of Chinese lanterns that are completely out of place. We wish they had stuck to one theme and carried it through instead of the confusion.
Masala Library’s food more than makes up for what the décor loses out on. The staff is happy to explain each dish. Though we had to wait 10 minutes before getting our menu from there on it was an upward experience.
We started with a Burnt Curry Leaf Martini (Rs 500) which is amongst the best we’ve had across the city. Before we got on to our Wild Mushroom Chai, we were served a complimentary Amuse Bouche of papdi chaat served as a papdi stick over spherified yogurt with a single pomegranate seed and tangy tamarind sauce. The flavours explode in your mouth as you bite into the papdi stick after swigging the yogurt. Mushroom soup will never be the same after Masala Library’s Wild Mushroom Chai (Rs 395). Our server informed us that it had been thus named as Mr Kalra wanted the first item on the menu to be Chai since in Indian custom Chai or Tea is the first thing offered to a guest. The Chai is presented as a typical Tea tray with dehydrated mushrooms replacing tea leaves, dehydrated truffle oil taking the place of sugar and mushroom soup contained in the teapot. The soup is clear, light and the perfect way to begin a meal. This was accompanied by a platter of miniature Galawat Kebabs (Rs 595) presented along with paranthas sized so as to match the kebabs. The Nawab of Awadh would have approved of these soft and juicy kebabs. We were informed that chefs from Lucknow who had been brought down to the Mumbai kitchens were responsible for their melt in your mouth texture.
Though the menu has a lot to offer for a main course we chose to sample the Butter Chicken and Sarson ka Saag. If you’re talking about north Indian cuisine how can you miss out on these.. Before we could get into our main course we were offered a lollipop of frozen mishti doi with strawberry sauce as a palate cleanser. The Butter Chicken (Rs 650) was presented as a row of hand pulled chicken pieces around which our server poured a creamy thick gravy made with San Marzano tomatoes. Why not Indian tomatoes- the San Marzano tomatoes are supposed to be less acidic and sweeter in nature since they are grown on volcanic soil. The Sarson ka Saag (Rs 475) was presented on a wooden platter along with miniature makki ki rotis. The restaurant is still working on how to present jaggery and chaas along with the Sarson ka Saag to complete the dish. We might have made a mistake with our order since both our dishes turned out quite heavy and left us feeling very full and yet happily satisfied.
Our sweet tooth however still felt unsatisfied and hence we chose the Gajar Halwa Desert Desert (Rs 375). No, you didn’t just read a typing mistake, it is called Desert Desert. It uses both interpretation of the word as three pyramids of rich Gajar Halwa topped with gold vark is presented over a bed of edible sand made from powdered rusk. The most difficult part of Gajar Halwa is in getting the sweetness just right and here Masala Library scores full marks.
The meal is supposed to end with a paan flavoured cotton candy tree that we saw going to other tables but sadly missed out on because the kitchen closed before we could finish our meal. To know that the restaurant could not complete an experience that it offers was not the best end to an otherwise great meal. This coupled with the slow start were the only downers from our dinner. Hopefully we will be able to taste that on our next visit.