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Mumbai’s MasalaBar: Ask for a signature drink here, savour the drama

At Mumbai’s MasalaBar, the food and drink get treated in high-end lab equipment.

more lifestyle Updated: May 07, 2016 11:49 IST
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
The black forest dirt pile was fluffy and fragrant, but served with an overpowering chocolate sauce.
The black forest dirt pile was fluffy and fragrant, but served with an overpowering chocolate sauce.(Shakti Yadav/HT Photo)

MasalaBar could be anywhere in the world, but it’s on Carter Road — and it’s the most un-Carter-esque eatery on the stretch. Angled sunlight glimmers through the patterned glass, until it goes dark outside. That’s when everyone’s eyes adjust to the only lighting: hundreds of candles. Nothing about MB seems quick and dirty, words that fit every other eatery on the street. The bar equipment stocks a distiller, nitrous oxide canisters for foams and infusions, and a centrifuge to clarify drinks. It’s a neat juxtaposition of the pre-industrial with hi-tech; it’s near-impossible to get a signature drink at MB that doesn’t involve drama.

The Great Hornby’s Cloud features a spice-scented fog under a bell jar, which is lifted table-side to reveal a boozy tumbler of whisky, delicately spiked with a home blend of spices. More Mumbai homage is found on the bar menu, with drinks named Sassoon Dock and Sunset@ Carter, but venture east with Bandstand Songkran, in which vodka laced with ginger, lemongrass and thyme is made pétillant in a Perlini carbonating shaker.

Read: Mockingbird Cafe review: This Mumbai cafe is a library of flavours

It’s more than just a bar, of course. In line with owner Zorawar Kalra’s other restaurants (Masala Library, Farzi Café, Pa Pa Ya) the food at MB gets its own lab treatment. Here, we have mushroom soufflé nuggets, which feature hot fluid inside a fragile solid casing. It’s food science magic until a chef or a recipe shares the easy technique behind them — it involves a freezer. The nuggets are deeply savoury and delicious. As is channa tempura chaat, the beans frosted with gossamer batter and masala, tossed with curry leaves and pine nuts — crunchy, spicy and meaty, cleverly refined chakna.

The mushroom soufflé nuggets, featuring hot fluid in a fragile solid casing, were deeply savoury and delicious. (Shakti Yadav/HT Photo)

Chicken 65 lollipops get a similar upgrade. The sharp edge of spice and stodgy batter is gone, and the sweet-spicy-tangy sauce coating the juicy flesh is worth licking fingers for. A cool, light and tart fruit chaat at MB features strawberries, dragonfruit and paan leaves. After a series of hits, it’s surprising that litti chokha profiteroles came out dry and dull, and a shiitake slider seemed like slapdash coffee-chain fare.

The sweet-spicy-tangy sauce coating the Chicken 65 lollipops was worth licking fingers for. (Shakti Yadav/HT Photo)

Carbon bhaji has soft bao-like black mini buns, and coal-dark bhaji. It’s buttery and tasty, but its colour is more memorable than its flavour. Equally dark but more successful is the Black Forest Dirt Pile, a fluffy, fragrant forest floor of chocolate mud with berries, little leaves, nuts and edible flowers. Ask the staff to drizzle the overpowering chocolate sauce sparingly.

Read: Restaurant review: Mumbai’s LIMA dishes up fine Latin American fare

Here’s another reason to try MB before the sun goes down. At several tables after dusk, it’s like dining at Dans Le Noir, a chain of restaurants where food is served in total darkness. All this elaborately assembled food and drink loses its first, visual, impression. Diners can be grateful for another bit of hi-tech: everyone has a phone with a flashlight.

Rating: ***1/2

Where: Gagangiri Apartments, Level One, above Cafe Coffee Day, Carter Road, Bandra (West)

When: 5 pm to 1 am

Cost: Approximately Rs 4,500 for a meal for two, with a drink each

Call: 84519-00257

The author tweets at @RoshniBajaj