*Disclosure: We were invited by Masala Library to visit their restaurant, but as always our opinions remain completely our own.*
Despite it’s name, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra offers a limited menu – and that’s a good thing for a restaurant that looks to curate the best of Indian cuisine from across the country. After all, if we’re going to be eating with the “czar of Indian cuisine,” we’d rather get straight to the good stuff.
While focused, the menu doesn’t lack in variety – and we made sure we missed as little of it as possible. This food is what the restaurant calls modern Indian cuisine, aimed at encouraging young Indians to continue engaging with Indian food. In other words, expect your traditional favourites spiked with foreign flavours and jazzed up by molecular gastronomy.
Overall, our meal at Masala Library opened and closed on a high note, but was a little soft in the middle. As with most restaurants that attempt to fiddle with longstanding favourites, the kitchen doesn’t always get it right, but for the most part we were excited to try each new dish as it was confidently described by the well-trained staff.
From the appetizers, the runaway winners were the Wild Mushroom Chai – a light, complex and delightfully earthy consommé dotted with dehydrated mushrooms – and the Dal Chawal Arancini – a surprisingly successful fusion of Italian and Indian that preserved the flavours of the original fare while modernizing its delivery. Extra points for the accompanying onion tomato “salsa” that was at once new and familiar on the palate. We also have to give a shoutout to the Khandvi Sphere, which we found made the most successful use of advanced molecular concepts. Less exciting were the Curry Leaf & Pepper Prawns and the Soft Shell Crab 65, which were over-seasoned for its delicate flesh.
Somewhere in-between these dishes was the savoury and creamy Tandoori Portobello Pot (which one fellow diner pointed out would have made an outstanding base for soft-shell crab, but failed to stand up on its own). Also in this category was the Braised Mutton Chaamp. While we couldn’t fault the preparation – in fact, the rich, slightly sticky, sweet-and-savoury maple and kokum glaze when down quite easily – it didn’t quite match the excitement of some of our other dishes, such as the Chutney Wali Machchi – a delicate, flaky serving of fish bathed in a supremely balanced coriander broth and beautifully complemented – surprisingly! – by a fresh burst of flavour from accompanying edible flowers.
Our palates freshly cleansed by frozen Mishti Doi Lollipops, we were ready for the main course, the most memorable component of which was the assortment of inventive and beautifully flaky stuffed Indian breads. Though in some cases unusual, we thought this fusion worked best from our meal. The Lamb Shank Biryani was more polarizing – some of us enjoyed its lighter, more subtle take while others missed the deep fragrance that traditionally defines this dish. Meanwhile, the Kashmiri Chili Duck and Grilled Baby Back Ribs were mostly unremarkable, but we didn’t dwell too long on this as the Bhindi Jaipuri with Papad Ki Subzi and Hand Pounded Churma kept us satiated with its harmonious marriage of three traditional Rajasthani dishes.
If you’re feeling a little weighed down at this point of your meal, do yourself a favour and POWER THROUGH! If there is one thing we were equally giddy about from our visit to Masala Library, it would have to be dessert (and the CAC cocktails that are far too easy to drink). The Ghewar Cheesecake pulls of the rare feat of combining traditional cheesecake with Indian flavours of pistachio, almond and rabri. The Ras Malai Tres Leches brings together the best of mango, cookie dough and rasmalai in one plate. Meanwhile, the Jalebi Caviar delvers the crunch and flavour or jalebi floating in a light and creamy rabri without the overwhelming sugary syrup that defines its typical state.
It’s hard to leave a meal unhappy when you close with superlative desserts (and let’s not forget the undeniably satisfying Paan Flavoured Candy Floss.) As you’d expect, the experience comes at a premium price, so for most people this will be a date you keep tucked away for a special occasion. Overall, Masala Library won us over with a menu that is both experimental and familiar, without straying too far into unchartered territory.
*Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra is slated to open in Dubai later this year, and will be preceded by the new Farzi Cafe opening in July in Gurgaon.*
Ground Floor, First International Financial Center
Opposite Sofitel Hotel, Near Tcg Financial Centre
Bandra Kurla Complex-Bandra East
Mumbai – 400051