Restaurant Review: Masala Library By Jiggs Kalra

October 14, 2013 7:43 am

We’ll admit to carrying lofty expectations to Bandra Kurla Complex’s new Indian fine dining restaurant Masala Library. The restaurant’s name, after all, is suffixed with that of Jiggs Kalra, one of the country’s most reputable exponents of north Indian cuisine. At their new venture, Kalra and his son Zorawar, who were previously at the helm of the Punjab Grill chain, dish up what they’re calling “progressive Indian fare”. It’s a hybrid cuisine that marries traditional recipes with molecular gastronomy, and is offered at an expectedly high price point.

The food is at odds with the restaurant’s dated setting of faux rock walls, Chinese cloth lanterns, and tables laid with dowdy runners and clunky cutlery. The Kalras have drafted a pan-Indian menu along the lines of the ones served at Pali Bhavan in Bandra, Ziya at The Oberoi, and Indian Accent in Delhi. Sadly though, the service staff is too caught up with the theatrics of the presentation, and as such dinner here felt like a long and elaborate show-and-tell session involving liquid nitrogen, anti-freeze mixtures, candy floss machines, and dry ice.

The restaurant’s first salvo of tricks included an amuse bouche of papdi chaat presented over plumes of dry ice as a chilled sphere of yoghurt mixed with tangy and sweet tamarind sauce, all of which literally exploded in the mouth. This was followed by a complimentary sev puri nibble comprising a halved rye crisp precariously balanced on the seat of a toy rickshaw daintily placed on the table. The chef’s recommended pesto kebab (Rs395) was an elevated take on the banquet hall classic of hara bhara kebab. The soft patties stuffed with a spicy coriander pesto were garnished with mini parmesan papads to help cut through the searing heat. The braised mutton chaap (Rs695) made up of four chops had us greedily gnawing at the sweet and peppery maple and kokum glaze basted over the meat. However, the sarson ka saag quesadilla (Rs475) was ruined by the sliced bell peppers and kernels of corn that detracted from the buttery richness of the saag, while the coin-sized mutton galawat kebabs (Rs595) though adequately tender, were marred by excessive nutmeg.

A mishti doi lollipop chilled to a kulfi-like consistency using liquid nitrogen effectively cleansed our palates for the meal’s two most defining dishes. There was Kalra’s game changing butter chicken (Rs650) with the creamiest gravy presumably enriched with obscene amounts of butter and as the staff repeated told us San Marzano tomatoes. The crisped bhindi Jaipuri (Rs500) had crushed papad and coriander seeds in its mix of curd and okra and a rather ingenious garnish of churma, the Rajasthani specialty of cracked wheat bound by sugar and ghee. The velvety gravy of the robust laal maas (Rs650) was not as pungent as it looked while the Gujarati kadhi risotto (Rs425), a glorified description for disappointingly bland kadhi khichdi, is avoidable. Opt for the perfectly flaky Malabari paratha (Rs90) over the underwhelming guchchi kulcha with truffle oil (Rs210) that was stuffed with flavourless button mushrooms instead of morels.

Masala Library has an impressive roster of unusual desserts such as jalebi caviar, ghevar cheesecake, and gulab jamun carpaccio that demand a fair share of tummy space. We chose the thandai crème brulee (Rs375), which true to its description is the festive beverage of almond, milk and fragrant spices (such as cinnamon, cardamom, and peppercorns) served as a light and wobbly custard surrounded by a pool of cardamom and lavender-scented cream. The burnt milk cake banoffee pie (Rs375) had a saccharine sweetness that was allayed by a sharp and invigorating ginger ice cream that deserves to be a separate dessert item on their menu. Our meal ended as it began, with a gimmick admittedly more impressive than the ones that preceded it – a sweet paan-flavoured candy floss that had both kids and adults chuckling with glee.

Prices are exclusive of taxes. This review was conducted anonymously. Liquor licence awaited.