Masala Library: Delightfully exquisite plating of delicious Indian food

Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library in Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex is a must-visit restaurant.

The pleasant dine-out experience is, to me, a combination of the decor, service, plating of the food and the taste of the food. Masala Library nailed every one of these. From the contemporary decor and Solomon’s gracious service, to the beautiful plating of the delicious food.

Having heard great things about Masala Library’s food presentation, it was the reason I went there – something I told Solomon. On his part, Solomon assured me that he’ll recommend photogenic dishes also known for their flavors. (+1 Masala Library.)

Before we began our meal, we were presented with a Thandai flavored palate cleanser created using molecular gastronomy – it was a thin bubble that gently bursts in your mouth releasing the pleasing flavors. It looked fascinating, and was equally fun:

 We started off with a thoroughly North Indian version of a risotto ball. Called daal chawal arancini (Arancini is Italian for risotto balls covered in breadcrumbs), this is essentially the traditional North Indian daal (curry) chawal (rice) ball covered in breadcrumbs; topped with mint chutney and a small crisp papad, all this sitting sitting atop some Mexico inspired salsa. (I’m craving this as I type!)

This was such a surprisingly beautiful twist to a simple staple food in North India that its simplicity is its genius:

 Since I was interested in trying more variety than having a heavy dinner, Solomon suggested we try the Yogurt and Goat Cheese fritters. A good balance of flavors – not too spicy and topped with savory chutneys – Solomon mentioned that the plating is colorful. Being a fan of both yogurt and goat cheese, this sounded like a good option (my parents didn’t enjoy goat cheese though – a bit on the bland side for them). I did like it though:

All this was served with soft herb bread:

Before we moved to the main course, the fine folks at Masala Library served us with another palate cleanser. (I was pleasantly surprised.) This palate cleanser was a very intriguing version of a popular West Bengal side – Mishthi Doi (basically sweet yogurt). However, at Masala Library, they decided to freeze it, top it with a hint of strawberry jelly and call it Mishthi Doi Lollipops. Served on sticks like kulfi (Indian ice cream), this was really fun!

 Moving onto the main course, we wanted to be on the safer side (my kid brother isn’t a fan of experimenting). We ordered the dum aloo (potatoes) and the paneer (cottage cheese). Of the 2, dum aloo were served as I’ve never seen dum aloo served before. A blob of cooked potatoes in the center of a plate topped with garnishes, and when placed on your table, the server pours gravy around the potatoes. (Last time I was in India, I was served a fruit soup similarly – I was equally amused!). Here’s the dum aloo:

  The paneer on the other hand were served as paneer makhni has always been served. Having said that, Masala Library’s paneer makhni was not drowning in thick or thin orange gravy, neither was it sweet or spicy – it was the right flavor. 

The fun started when the breads were brought to the table. From the menu we ordered what was described as pocket filled bread with cheese; as explained by our server, these are bite-sized breads with stuffing of vegetables and cheese. I was sold. What came out brought a smile to our faces for this was definitely not a regular main course bread. It tasted like small pizzas. 

Moving to dessert, it wasn’t easy choosing a dessert. We discussed and debated; we deliberated. What should be ordered that piqued interest, and was Solomon approved for photography and taste. We could only order one, we were full from the paneer and aloo. By now we had decided that Masala Library is worthy of another visit, so we were fine ordering only 1 dessert. Mother dearest suggested Ras Malai. We ordered ras (juice) malai (cream).

It looked spectacularly beautiful.

Topped with a crystallized sugar and layers of ras malai (form of cheese) in sweet milky liquid, floating rose petals (these are edible), and bright yellow in color – this was one very beautiful plate:

We weren’t done. While we waited for bill, we were served one final palate cleanser. These Masala Library palate cleansers are delectable. Our last palate cleanser for the night was paan flavored cotton candy! Who doesn’t enjoy cotton candy?! Especially when they’re served in a never-before tried flavor! Paan is an Indian-subcontinent after-meal mouth freshener made of betel leaf and a bunch of (often sweet) fillings.

 Masala Library is on my must-visit restaurant list of Bombay. Restaurants like these are made special by their service, so thank you to the fine gentlemen who made our evening a memory. There will be a part 2 to this.

PS: This is one of the very few places in India that also serves sparkling water.

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