Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Masala Cuisine of India

Masala Cuisine of India
1855 South Reynolds Road
Toledo, OH 43614
Mon – Sat 11:00am to 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sun – 11:30am to 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:30pm

Masala is the word used to describe a mix of spices used in Indian cooking either dried or as a paste. True to the essence of its name, Masala delivers a broad mix of Northern Indian specialties. Located in a strip mall near the corner of Reynolds and Glendale, the restaurant is inconspicuous and the interior is completely forgettable. This is in sharp contrast to the food, which explodes with scent, texture and flavor.

I started out with the assorted appetizers ($6.99). A plate of traditional Indian fried savories arrived at the table within moments. It included samosa, pakora, meat samosa and chicken pakora and was served with a spicy and sweet tamarind dipping sauce as well as a tart coriander (cilantro) sauce. If you’ve never had Indian food, this is a great way to sample the wonders of the North.

The menu includes Tandoori Chicken (4pc $8.99, full $15.99) as well as lamb kababs ($9.99) and other meat dishes prepared in a clay oven.

My table shared the lamb korma ($9.99) and the chicken tikka masala ($9.99). Both dishes were served with basmati rice. The lamb was cooked in a creamy curry blended with a mix of Indian herbs and spices. The combination of flavors was both elegant and delicious. The chicken tikka masala was also a creamy tomato based sauce but was spicier than the lamb. In spite of the similar appearances of the two dishes, the tastes and textures were distinctly different. We also ordered a side of raitha ($2.99) to cool our palates. For the uninitiated, raitha is yogurt mixed with a combination of chopped vegetables such as tomatoes, onion and/or cucumber.

To make the most of every dish, we ordered a basket of naan (soft, Indian bread $1.99) to soak up the remaining curry and the piquant tikka masala sauce. I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t a really ugly habit I’ve carried from the universal sauce mopping Italians to the more culturally diverse subcontinent…but it’s impossible to savor every drop of sauce without sliding a piece of naan across your plate a few times. We also ordered palak paneer kulcha, an Indian bread stuffed with cheese and spinach ($3.99). It had a cooling effect in our Midwestern mouths.

No Indian meal in America is complete without a lassi ($2.99). I ordered a mango lassi, which is typically cold, blended yogurt and mango pulp served over ice and with a straw. There aren’t as many varieties of lassi as there are versions of masala, and I’m pretty sure you have to eat in the home of Indian-Americans if you want to try other flavors. And yes, this is a not so subtle hint to any of my Indian American friends looking for an appreciative diner at their next home cooked meal.

The waiters at Masala are particularly friendly and willing to explain the menu to anyone who has never had Indian food before. I noticed our waiter taking his time to describe the various dishes to other customers who were struggling with what to order and very apprehensive of the spice intensity. I couldn’t help but ease drop to hear that these adventurous neophytes enjoyed their meal.

Masala is a welcome addition to the group of Indian restaurants in Toledo.

If you’ve never had Indian food before, I encourage you to grab a group of friends and go discover the sensual delights of Indian cuisine. It is just another way to support the local economy with a moderately priced meal, while possibly trying something new.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Technorati blog directory