We walk into Masala Library, one curious, die-hard foodie and another, who (on this night only) is feeling unusually capricious.
Jiggs’ Kalra’s latest offering promises to be the last word in molecular gastronomy, we hear. The foodie secretly hopes that the restaurant plays on the ‘library’ theme, which, we soon find out, that it does not. Masala Library’s décor, done in brown and beige, is pleasant, but not revolutionary (we hope the food is).
Our server gets us tea — at least that’s what it looks like — until we notice the shredded mushrooms instead of tea leaves and whipped cream (which, we soon learn, is truffle oil). The Wild Mushroom Chai (R325) is everything you’d want soup to be — light, effervescent and flavoursome. We wouldn’t mind waking up to it someday.
Our spirits are lifted, and the Gilawat Kebab (R525) keeps them buoyed. The soft kebabs are surprisingly non-greasy and the friend goes on to say that they could give the ones in Lucknow some serious competition. The Soft Shell Crab 65 (R725) is fresh and crisp, but not the best we’ve had. Interestingly, the Tandoori Guchchi (R650) is served with truffle oil and mint foam, and is worth trying. On the delicious Pesto Kebab (R395) sits a demure parmesan papad.
What Masala Library promises with theatrics, it delivers in taste and quality. The Lal Maas (R575) comes with khasta kachori grits and mathani mirch. The friend utters the unprecedented — neither Delhi nor Chandigarh, he says, serve red meat this soft and succulent. Enough said.
Masala Library’s cocktails definitely know how to tease. Don’t balk at their Curry Leaf and Star Anise Martini (R500) — these whimsical combinations are quite heady.
For the main course, we almost give the Tandoori Chaap (R450) a miss because it looks just like regular keema. It is actually soya bean sprinkled with pea pops, and let’s just say that Masala Library succeeds in doing what most mothers cannot do during dinner table wars involving soya bean. The Dal Makhni (R395), is comforting but not too heavy. The Tandoori Champ (R595), however, fails to live up to the menu’s otherwise staggering offerings — the maple and kokum glaze are a tad too mild for our taste. We try an array of kulchas — the Anda Bhurji kulcha (R175) is unparalleled in taste and texture, and perhaps only the Bakharkhani (R125), made from tangerine zest, comes second.
Masala Library saves the best for last. For dessert, we dig our forks into what looks like orange caviar sitting on a dense bed of condensed milk. Turns out, it is a twist to the traditional jalebi and rabdi (R375). Try their Ghevar Cheesecake (R375) if you, too, often dream of that soft, rare-to-find consistency in cheesecake. What has us at hello, however, is what is simply called Chocolate (R1,000) — a bed of brownies, liquid chocolate and chocolate rocks, which must be hammered to be eaten. In a few minutes, what you get are chunks of creamy mousse.
Masala Library takes big, bold steps at reinventing the Indian cuisine. It also has a lofty ambition — the restaurant wants a Michelin star — which may not be all that implausible if its standards don’t drop once the guests rush in. Masala Library delivers what it claims, and doesn’t mind playing with our heads while at it. We’d go back for the combination of science and sensual flirtation.
We cannot rate the experience as it was a preview
Where: Masala Library, ground floor, First International Financial Centre, opposite Sofitel Hotel, BKC