As you must’ve heard already, Masala Bar is now open in Pune, a fairly new addition to the food scene at Balewadi High Street, this is a typical modern gastropub that offers an eclectic mix of food & drinks.
I was recently invited to a tasting, & here’s my take on this place.
This review is actually a mixed bag of sorts.
While there are some things I really liked a lot, there were few others that were totally disappointing.
The decor and overall vibe of the place is trendy, modern & lively; but completely misses the point when it comes to using that word ‘Masala’ in their name, which is supposedly their USP.
I would’ve liked to see a bit of that Masala element in their decor, more like an Indo Western look, instead of a run of the mill swanky eatery.
They have however taken the whole Masala concept a bit too far in their cocktails, by adding copious amounts of Indian Spices to all of their signature drinks.
From their list of signature cocktails that we tried, the Chai Whiskey Pe Charcha, Whiskey Business, Bombay Velvet , Imli ka boota , & Jaadu Tona were all very heavy on spices like Cinnamon, Star Anise, Kewra , etc. The spices were overpowering all other flavours including those of the alcohol in the cocktail.
I mean yeah, all the theatrics of adding dry ice and using fancy and unusual glasses and paraphernalia adds to the novelty factor. But unfortunately that’s a one time thing. Would it make me go a 2nd time and order that drink again ? I don’t think so.
What worked for me though was their Classic Cocktail, a Whiskey Sour, which had a brilliantly mixed egg white which was frothy, & yet so smooth without any trace of that eggy smell.
I don’t think I’ve ever walked up to the bar & complimented the mixologist on his skills of earating egg whites so well, but this time I did !
Speaking of the food they serve, Masala Bar does serve some interesting bar bites, some of which are like pretty addictive, especially those Pyaaz ke Challe, which are basically crisp fried onion rings generously coated with a spicy south Indian Malaga podi powder. This one is literally unputdownable.
Another favourite was the Guntur Chilli Chicken – spicy, tangy, and heavy flavours of curry leaves and guntur chillies make these tender chicken chunks a great accompaniment with your sundowner.
Murugan baby Idli was another interesting dish as these soft baby Idlis were dunked in the same spicy Malaga podi as the onion rings, and then coated with another tangy chutney.
So far so good I thought,
But then came the biggest let down of the evening.
Khar Danda Jhinga Bhel – An underwhelming mixture of kurmura and all other ingredients of a typical bhel, with Prawns (??!!) on top ..?!!
The bhel on its own had very little flavour of its own, and the grilled prawns were literally just placed on top as if for a garnish. The entire dish felt like a complete mismatch.
Had the bhel been tossed with some fried squid rings, some sauteed dry shrimp or maybe a dash of fish sauce etc, it would’ve atleast had a unique seafood flavour to it, and would’ve made some sense in terms of flavour. But this preparation was a complete No No for me.
Chilli Pork Ribs on the contrary were quite good. I’ve definitely had better ones than these, but the sweet, spicy, tangy sticky glaze on the ribs was quite good. The meat was cooked right, and the serving portion was good too. So overall a satisfactory dish.
Another unusual combination which I quite surprisingly liked was the Thai Curry Risotto.
All the typical flavours of a Thai Curry and the perfectly cooked risotto made from it, the rice had a good bite to it, and the creamy texture from the curry made it quite delicious, along with the crisp banana fritters served with rice.
Now on to the dishes that failed to impress-
Carbon Pav Bhaji. – You read it correctly. The whole activated charcoal trend that has taken the food scene by storm, be it icecreams, smoothies, shakes and now even good ol pav bhaji.
This one was served with an intense black bhaji, and a stack of baby pav, did nothing to impress. Neither the look of the dish, nor the flavour could hold my attention more than a minute. Flavour wise it was too spicy for me, too much masala which hit the throat and had me reaching for a sip of water with every bite.
Kacchi Dabeli – this was another average dish in terms of flavour and presentation. Honestly, I expected much better (read- innovative) preparations than this one.
I mean why would I go to a place like Masala Bar and order Kacchi Dabeli, when I can have it anywhere else ?! (and tastier than this one, to be frank)
Gulab Air Jamun – this was a couple of gulab jamuns, hidden under a fluffy cloud of Rabdi foam.
This desseet was definitely the better one among the 2 we sampled.
The other one was –
Faces Of Chocolate – Everything you can think of , chocolate soil, chocolate brownie, icecream, chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings, some praline – a huge mish mash of all things chocolate.
We either get tempted to try something, or get totally put off when we 1st look at a dish, well atleast I do. And the look of this chocolate medley felt just too shabby and unappetizing even to a chocolate lover like me.
That said, I think there are some things that work for us, and some just don’t.
Maybe some others might love the dishes that failed to impress me, coz food is after all quite a subjective thing.
What I would like to go for a 2nd time, are those Malaga podi coated Onion Rings, the Chilli Pork Ribs, and that amazing Classic Whiskey Sour ofcourse !
* Bloggers table was hosted by Masala Bar *