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A 16-course meal

Friday, June 08, 2018

Masala Library’s sumptuous tasting menu takes you on a surprising and memorable culinary trail across India

How greedy do you need to be to eat a 16-course meal? That was the first thought that struck us when Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra at Bandra-Kurla Complex announced its 16-course menu, which promised to take us on a culinary journey across India.

If you think about it, however, most buffets offer many more than 16 dishes. The difference is, you pick and choose at a buffet and rarely do justice to what’s on offer, whereas Masala Library offers a fine-dine experience right at the table, in a series of beautifully presented tasting plates that leave you staggering out of the restaurant with a smile some three hours later.

The venue

Masala Library gains its inspiration from Jiggs Kalra, who has spent five decades introducing Indian food to an international audience and reviving lost cuisines. Kalra is known as the ‘Czar of Indian Cuisine’ and is the first Asian to be inducted into International Food & Beverage Gourmet Hall of Fame. Among other things, he has also authored over 11 titles on Indian cuisine, including Prashad: Cooking with Indian Masters, which is said to have sold over six million copies.  He is also known for reviving age-old delicacies such as Galouti Kebab and Dora Kebab.

Jiggs Kalra is the Chairman and Managing Director of Bawarchi Tolla (Hotel and Restaurant Consultants) and is assisting his son, Zorawar Kalra, as the Mentor for Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd., which owns several fine-dine restaurant brands, including the 90-seater Masala Library. This premium restaurant, done up in soothing shades of beige and brown with wooden lattice screens and a wooden ceiling, is located on the ground floor of First International Financial Centre at  Bandra-Kurla Complex.

The signature restaurant is well-known for taking authentic Indian cuisine to new and surprising levels through intense research, progressive presentation and culinary innovations. Masala Library uses molecular gastronomy to enhance its dishes, not just for flavour and visual appeal but also to introduce an element of surprise. “We don’t do takeaway,” the manager Mahesh Shirsat told us when we wanted to order a la carte for home. “The taste and the presentation are such that you need to have it immediately!”

The menu

Masala Library’s nine-course degustation menu, involving small portions of all its signature dishes in one sitting, paired with wine, has been popular for a while now. Recently, they went several steps further with a 16-course menu, created by Chef Saurabh Udinia; it is sourced from historical and traditional influences and street favourites but served in unique, modern and surprising ways. The menu, which offers a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option, is paired with specially curated wines, such as Tiamo Spumante, a sparkling Italian wine to go with the aperitifs and a Condesa de Leganza, a Spanish rose wine to accompany the spicy galouti kebab. Every dish, beginning with the Amuse Bouche, and ending with the Belgium Chocolate Truffle that literally rose to the occasion hovering above the plate through Quantum Levitation, took our breath away.

We began with a ‘fake egg’—mango puree touched by molecular gastronomy—served with coconut water; then we moved on to a series of efficiently served dishes including a ‘deconstructed samosa’, charcoal bhajjia and  salmon with mango and jaggery chutney.  The Kashmiri churma came served in a rock sourced from Uttarakhand; the Wild Mushroom Chai was served on a tea tray with dehydrated mushrooms replacing tea leaves and dehydrated truffle oil taking the place of sugar; the chicken lollipop could be eaten whole because it was really made of ground chicken with bread for the ‘bone’… everything tasted authentic but had an unusual twist. The galouti kebab, blended with 32 spices, arrived looking like noodles on the plate.

By the time we got to the miso stew with black rice, we started wondering how we would manage anything else that arrived at the table, but of course, one had to make room for the Kadaknath chicken—the black chicken otherwise known as Kali Masi, which is local to the Jhabua and Dhar districts of eastern Madhya Pradesh. At some point, we stopped trying to figure out which course we were on, and simply succumbed! And just when we thought we were done, the desserts arrived—Jalebi Caviar, Pistachio Rabri, Jamun mousse beetroot crisp (who thinks up a net made of beetroot to be served with a sweet dish!), and for a fun twist, a delectable candy-floss that had everyone’s eyes turning enviously to our table.

The price

The vegetarian option is Rs 2500++, the non-vegetarian is Rs 2700++ and if you opt for the six tasting glasses of wine (75ml each), it’s an extra Rs 1750++. Every rupee is worth it.

Don’t try this menu as a quick lunch option on a busy day, but if you have something to celebrate over a leisurely meal, head to BKC. We suggested it to someone who was celebrating her 40th anniversary—a well-travelled lady with extremely sophisticated tastes—and she was glad she had taken our advice! “How did you manage to get back to work after this,” she asked.

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