Reinventing a famed cuisine with molecular gastronomy, ingredients and lots of experimentation, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra rates high on our chart!
By: Karishma Suri & Akshay Suri
Posted on: May 8, 2014
Indian cuisine is over 5,000 years old with its great taste appreciated all over the world. But agreeing that the only constant is change, there came along Jiggs Kalra, a well-known food entrepreneur, who realised that it was time the famed cuisine got a makeover. "In the past seven to eight decades of its commercial proliferation, Indian cuisine has been presented much in the same manner, without any thought process. Progressive Indian cuisine (propagated by Mr Kalra) uses modern techniques of preparation like molecular gastronomy and contemporary presentation styles of dishes, thereby adding an avant-garde element to the dining experience," said Mr. Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurant Pvt. Ltd. Have you ever had khandvi with a twist? Or jalebi in the form of caviar? Welcome the menu at Masala Library.
Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra endeavours to offer its patrons a never-before-undertaken gastronomic voyage. The cuisine is a synthesis of over four decades of research and exploration across various Indian kitchens by Mr. Kalra. The menu revolves around progressive Indian cuisine, reflected through the diversity of traditional Indian fare, combined with contemporary presentation, vibrant colours and captivating blend of flavours, with an emphasis on using the freshest of ingredients, carefully balanced spices and modern culinary techniques.
The Masala in Library
Masalas, or spices are synonymous to Indian cuisine. "When we were exploring the name of the brand, the idea was simple - the concept had to be representative of Indian cuisine as a whole, while taking Indian cuisine to the next level, which we’ve termed as Indian Cuisine – Version 2.0. With the cuisine served at Masala Library showcasing the use of various masalas from across the country, it was only right for us to name it as a library, thus the name Masala Library," explained Mr Kalra.
With an ambience that is simple, yet so elegant, you will love the peace that surrounds the restaurant. Downplayed so as not to distract or take too much attention away from the plate in front of you, I personally loved the warmth exuded from the decor as well as the team.
While the food is busy getting prepared in the kitchen, indulge in the drinks at this restaurant, which are inspired from elements widely used in Indian cuisine. Inspired by the practice of molecular gastronomy, the drinks are mixed using analysis and techniques found in science to understand and experiment with cocktail ingredients on a molecular level. "These beverages are derived from seasonal, organic and unusual ingredients to create a menu which we are confident will excite the adventurous, yet satisfy the traditional taste, and evoke nostalgia," said Mr Kalra.
Reaffirming just that were the star anise martini and the burnt curry leaf martini. The former is a shaken martini with the base of gin muddled with star anise and strained into a martini glass layered with anise airé (created using the molecular gastronomy technique of foaming) and garnished with star anise. While the flavouring was perfect, I was truly impressed by the anise flavoured foam which did not fall flat even 20 minutes later. The latter is a vodka based martini, muddled with shredded burnt curry leaf, vigourously shaken and strained into a martini glass, and garnished with a twig of burnt curry leaf. Truly unique, who would have thought that curry leaf would someday be used in cocktails?
With Masala Library offering a unique, first-of-its-kind dining experience in Indian cuisine, it is obvious that Mr Kalra invested heavily in training their teams. "The menu itself has undergone eight iterations in a span of eight months before we launched the restaurant with its final menu on offer today, which required us investing a lot of time, effort and resources in doing food trials, working on the taste as well as the presentation of the dishes. Alongside, the front of house teams underwent almost four months of training, both classroom as well as practical, to understand the nuances of each dish, how they are prepared, taste and presented to the guests before we officially launched," said Mr Kalra. So don’t be surprised if while dining you are given a full education on what you are eating and how it is prepared.
When at Masala Library, it is essential to activate all your senses, as the sights that will be plated up in front of you will be a vision to be etched forever! Our meal started off with khandvi spheres which are actually an amuse bouche. A one of a kind khandvi transformed in to a sphere using reverse spherification (a technique of molecular gastronomy), this deserves to be photographed a million times before it explodes on your palate, as the familiarity of the dish comes back to you almost immediately. Moving to soups and salads, you will watch in amazement as you are served wild mushroom chai (a strong recommendation). Chai or tea is served as a welcome refresher all over the world, and it was interesting to see how they had modernized this concept with truffle oil crumbs and dehydrated mushrooms. A mushroom consommé served along mushroom tea leaves (dehydrated mushroom) and truffle oil powder, it was extremely refreshing to sip on this fragrant cup, and even more after you have watched the entire 'tea ritual' on your table.
Strong on the innovative front is the watermelon chaat made with orange segments and nut cracker on the base of a mint marinated watermelon piece. Strong acidity provided by the citrus perfectly fuses with the watermelon to leave you with a refreshing, sweet and sour taste on your palate. Non-vegetarians can praise the Runny curd rice, topped with curry leaf, pepper prawns and Madras gun-powder, garnished with banana crisp (which is also made in house). I wolfed down and loved the pesto kebab which is a more refined version of our usual hara bhara kebab, but served with a parmesan papad. A perfect texture, smooth flavours and the papad, of course, made this dish a favourite of mine. Do not, under any circumstances, miss the papad platter (with papads from different states of India made in house) with a selection of right chutneys which look as good as they taste.
Not a big fan of Ragda, the team convinced me to try the crisp pine nut and potato pattice topped with ragda hummus and crunchy feta and micro greens salad. I must say that it was a welcome taste. The non-vegetarian side of the table consisted of braised mutton champ (tender baby goat chops) tossed in sweet and sour sauce made using maple syrup and goan kokum which sounded and looked appetizing even to a vegetarian! The meat came off the bone easily and was an effortless chew. The galawat kebab, topped with braised, pulled goat boti and ulta tawa ka parantha came next, and according to my companion were brilliant. Flavourful kebabs with a flawlessly fine paste-like texture, topped with tender bite sized pieces of mutton boti composed the dish which was worth many Instagram shots!
A mishti doi lollipop chilled to a kulfi-like consistency using liquid nitrogen effectively cleansed our palates to make way for the main course. On Chef Saurabh's recommendation, I had the tandoor roasted chop (soy bean chops marinated, deep fried and tossed up), served on a bed of raarhya masala (made from garlic, red chillies and bell peppers) and green peas caviar; bhindi jaipuri with papad ki subzi and hand pounded churma and dal makhani - no explanation needed there! Subtracting the excessive butter in the dal, I loved how the masalas literally danced in the mouth. My companion had laal maas with khasta kachori grits, mathani mirch (braised tender baby goat lamb shanks, simmered with tomatoes, mathani mirch and garam masala).
Highly recommended comes their guchchi naan with mild cheddar and truffle oil. The seasoned morels paired with cheddar were brilliant and it’s pleasing to have this exotic mushroom with something as simple as a naan. Egg lovers must have the anda bhurji kulcha with chilli glaze instead of the other regular breads that you will get at every other Indian eatery. I personally loved the Gujarati kadhi risotto which is a brilliant take on our loved desi kadhi chawal with a creamy Italian twist using arboria rice instead of basmati. Don’t miss the anar and mint raita with rose spheres that burst in your mouth cutting through the acidity of the yoghurt.
A sin to remember
Although stuffed, we had motivation enough to find place for Masala Library's famed desserts. The Indian population seems to be rejoicing at the jalebi caviar which is actually crispy jalebi made in the form of caviar, glazed with saffron foam and served along pistachio rabri! Not only a treat to the eyes, this dish stands out for innovation, presentation and the foam. Unfortunately, the jalebi was more reminiscent of boondi ladoo as it lacked crunch). A surprise love at first bite came in the form of the burnt milk cake banoffee pie with homemade ginger ice cream! What I loved with this ilaichi banana and milk cake was that it wasn’t too sweet and vanished soon into the mouth.
Saving a brilliant invention till the end, chocolate lovers will dance in joy while experiencing the chocolate kulfi mousse on a bed of walnut brownie, chocolate coated hazelnut and cake crumbs. You need to get your camera out and multitask! All these elements are frozen using liquid nitrogen and finished with warm chocolate sauce. The surprise element was the conversion of the mousse into literal rock by pouring liquid nitrogen which is then cracked into smaller edible pieces and served with hot chocolate. Happy guessing because you never know what you are going to bite into while the variety of textures in this dish make it a must have! The child in you will be amazed at their paan flavoured candyfloss. After all this, it only seems befitting to finish the meal with a churan chest to aid your digestion!
In the words of Mr Kalra, I’d like to sum up Masala Library as "contemporary, yet traditional at heart; it uses elements of molecular gastronomy to add an element of surprise into the fray, yet retains its authenticity in terms of flavours. Dining at Masala Library is an experience."
Coordinates: Ground Floor, First International Financial Centre, Opposite Sofitel Hotel, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East, Mumbai
Ph: +91-22-66424142, +918452900900