Mumbai is teaming with restaurants. Everything from street food stalls to lavish buffets. However, fine dining establishments are few and far between. So, when I learned about Masala Library, I had to experience it red notebook and camera in hand.
Mumbai Library is the brainchild of Zorawar Kalra, son of the entrepreneurial Jiggs Kalra and is located in the progressive, booming Bandra Kurla Complex. On entering I was met with a cold reception and shown in to a dark, cramped and dated space. Wood panelled ceilings, flies buzzing, worn table linens, dull cutlery and fingerprints covering wine glasses. Not what I expected from a fine dining restaurant so highly praised.
The friendly waiters, dressed in the archaic uniforms, presented me with the menu and quickly recommended the Chef’s Tasting Menu – a 7 course culinary journey I was told. Seeing that this was what was recommended, I duly obliged desperately hoping that the food was going to make up for the unremarkable ambience.
After a comical amuse bouche, of a coconut milk shot in a ceramic egg shell was served, the first course of snacks was brought out. At first glance, it was evident that some thought had gone into the presentation, but again, some of the plates had seen better days with chips and cracks. The food, however, was delightful! An intensely flavourful Bhalla Semifreddo was followed by a playful Deconstruction Of A Somasa and finished off with a humbling and satisfying Farmer’s 3.0. Rich in flavours, creative techniques and colours, this was a great start to my journey.
The soup course was a nondescript Mushroom Chai and this was followed by the starters. First up was the curious interpretation of a Galouti Kebab. The magical part of a kebab is having that crispy charred skin which, when bitten into, releases a juicy satisfying meat. At Masala Library, the interpretation is a bit off. A blob of meat that looks like it just came out of the mincer and lacks any of the kebab magic. Texturally just a mushy mess and unbalanced in overpowering flavor, this definitely was not a kebab. The Garam Masala Chicken Sausage was delightful! Simple, balanced with its spicy flavour and served on a visual and flavour contrasting aloo chat. I would have gladly replaced my brown emoji resembling (you know the one) kebab with another sausage.
So far, the meal had my opinion divided. Some excellent dishes delighted and some curious ones disappointed. The main course was the Moori Maach. I was truly sceptical at this point. However, this dish changed that! A perfectly grilled piece of sea bass served with a puffed rice cracker and on a mustard curry base. Everything came together perfectly. The delicate fish flaked easily and absorbed the flavourful curry. The soaked broken puffed rice crackers added bite and each bite delighted more than the last. I was mopping up every last bit of this with the fresh breads served. A remarkable dish that still has me drooling over my keyboard!
As a kid, growing up in multi-cultural Kenya, Jalebi was one of my favorite Indian desserts. Truthfully, one of the reasons, I picked Masala Library to review was the number of comments about this dessert – and it did not disappoint. Each little piece of the “caviar” was bursting with the most delightful sweetness and the rich clotted cream base with a hint of cardamom was simply decadent. An excellent way to end the meal.
Masala Library shows how progressive Indian cuisine has developed. The Kalra family have made great strides here and are on to a winning concept. The dining room, however, is showing its age and is in desperate need of a total refurbishment to bring it up to modern fine dining standards. Having said that, Masala Library is a restaurant that I would recommend.
The numbers then…
Triple ‘F’ Factor 0/1