Dinner at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

image of The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

I was recently invited to a Press dinner at The Masala Wala, an Indian restaurant located on the Lower East Side, few steps from Katz's Deli in fact. The place, opened in November 2011 by Satyen and Roni Mazumdar features traditional Indian dishes from different regions with a focus on street food. We met with Satyen and his son, Roni, and they contributed to make this experience very enjoyable, not only for our palates! 

Before I talk about the food, let's talk about the restaurant itself: it is a medium sized restaurant that can accommodate 28 people inside and 8 people on the sidewalk. 
image of The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

We ate inside and I liked the atmosphere that had some warmth, thanks to the dark wood and exposed brick. The room was surrounded by beautiful paintings of street vendors highlighting the underlying theme of the restaurant! It also had high ceilings one of my favorite fixtures, apparent bulbs, that are, I guess, both old fashioned and trendy!
image of The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

One of the walls had Indian artifacts, some of them being a reminder of the Indo-Chinese culture (especially the dragon sitting on one of the shelves).
image of The Masala Wala in NYC, New Yorkimage of The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

Then there is the gold coin featured at the beginning of this post and below:
image of The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

First of all, gold symbolizes wealth and prosperity in India. Then, the face is no celebrity (yet!): it is Satyen Mazumdar! On the right side is their motto: "taste above all".

Their menu, created by Chef Abdul Junel, features cuisine from South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka...). You find of course the classic dishes most Indian restaurants serve: Chicken Tikka Masala, Tandoori Chicken, biryani...Interestingly, they propose for the most classic ones, their vegetarian version: chicken tikka masala & paneer masala, tandoori chicken & vegetable tandoori are good examples.

Coincidently, the dinner occurred on India Independence Day! We were therefore greeted with their Independence drink: mango lassi.
image of mango lassi at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York image of mango lassi at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

The mango lassi was delicious and a nice way to prepare our palates. We were lucky to be able to try several dishes from their menu, some of them being soon new additions. It was split between two culinary experiences: street food bites and Indian signature dishes. I was very excited to try all these dishes, especially the street ones!

So we started with the street food bites:

We started off with Bhel Puri:
image of Bhel puri at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

Bhel Puri is made of puffed rice, spiced tomatoes, chickpeas, curry leaves, mustard cheese, onions and chutney. It was pretty good and interesting because I never had puffed rice besides the famous cereal! It added a nice crunchiness to the dish that made it different from any other rice dishes I ever tried.

Then came one of the most interesting dishes and one of my favorites: Dahi Puri.

image of Dahi puri at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

These are small semolina puffs filled with spiced potatoes, chickpeas, tamarind, mint and yogurt.
Roni explained to us that it is a one bite appetizer. So I ate it at once, opening my mouth as much as I could. Clearly, trying to eat it in several bites would have been catastrophic and I would have ended up with some on my pants!!!

image of Dahi puri at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

So you put it in your mouth and then when you bite on it, it is like an explosion of flavors, where you taste each ingredient before they merge together, the yogurt and the mint adding some freshness. This is a fantastic dish that I strongly recommend!

The next dish was Mumbai samosa:
Image of Samosa at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

Samosa are crispy turnovers that can be either vegetarian or non-vegetarian. These were vegetarian, filled with spiced potatoes and peas. I was really happy to see samosa on the tasting menu as this is one of my favorite Indian appetizers. They were delicious: crispy, not greasy and very flavorful, the peas adding some texture to the filling.

Then we got a surprising dish: Kolkata Gobi Manchurian.
image of Kolkata Gobi Manchurian at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

This is an Indo-Chinese dish made of cauliflower florets that are tossed in ginger, garlic and spices. This dish comes from Kolkata, aka Calcutta, that is the capital city of West Bengal. Looking at it, it reminded me of the sweet and sour sauce that we can find in Chinese cuisine. It was really good, not spicy, with some sweetness to it and a bit of texture provided by the sticky sauce that had a wonderful red color.

The next starter was chicken tikka. It was cubes of chicken marinated in a red tandoori mixture and grilled in a tandoor oven.
image of Chicken Tikka at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

The chicken was very moist and the tandoori mixture very flavorful. A nice dish for sharing for sure.

The last starter was lamb Kakoti Kebab:
image of Lamb kakoti kebab at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

The ground lamb was grilled in a tandoor grill until soft. It was mixed with spices and there was like a citrus-y taste to it. I was a bit disappointed as I found that the bold flavor of lamb was a bit lost, overpowered by the spices.

Then, they served us their signature Indian dishes! They brought all the dishes at once so we could share, not thinking about the mayhem it would cause! Imagine six food bloggers trying to take photos of 10 dishes spread over the table! It was crazy and funny!
image of Indian dishes at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

We tried the following dishes:

  • Nawabi Chicken Biryani: basmati rice, saffron, spices and chicken. This dish had a nice spiciness to it that built up slowly in the back of my mouth!
  • Baingan Bharta: roasted eggplant cooked with ginger and cumin. This is one of my favorites: I love the particular taste of eggplant, smooth but a bit spicy at the same time.
  • Vegetable Jalfrezi: vegetables with paprika, tomatoes and coriander. It was an ok dish for me. Nothing great about it.
  • Shahi Paneer: one of my favorite entrees! It is a pressed Indian cottage cheese cooked in a rich cashew-almond cream sauce.
image of Shahi paneer at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

That sauce was fantastic! Creamy, it was very tasty and perfect with some rice or naan! I could have eaten the entire bowl. The cheese had this great chewy texture and I surely did not mind loving a vegetarian dish!

There was also:
  • Chicken Saagwala that is slow cooked chicken with creamed spinach. I am not the biggest fan of spinach (Popeye, you did not convince me!), so this dish was just ok for me.
  • Lamb Pasanda: sauteed lamb cooked in yogurt, cream, tomatoes and cashew. I admit that I am not even sure I tasted that one! Dammit! I love lamb! Well, you know what? I just need to go back to  The Masala Wala to try it!
  • Kerala Fish Curry: it was tilapia served in a sweet and tangy creamy sauce, with onions, tamarind and fenugreek. That was a nice dish that made me think that I should order more often fish in Indian restaurants!
  • Shrimp Konkani Curry: South Indian curry with red cayenne pepper, coconut milk and coriander.
image of Shrimp Konkani curry at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

This dish was fantastic! Very creamy, the sauce was tasty and velvety, not spicy, with nice size shrimp. This was also one of my favorites.

The last dishes were dal.
image of Dal Tadka at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

There were two kinds: Dal Tadka, made with yellow lentils (photo above) and Dal Makhani, made with black lentils. Both were good, but my favorite was the Dal Makhani that had a more robust flavor.

These dishes were served with rice pulao and some naan bread, butter or garlic (the butter one was so good...):
image of Naan at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

It was so puffy with some nice char on the outside, a bit like a Neapolitan pizza! 

To cool our palates whenever the heat started to build up (most of the dishes were mild to slightly spicy). There was raita:
image of raita at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

As well as sweet lassi, a drink I always order when eating in an Indian restaurant!
Image of sweet lassi at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

Then, it was time for dessert! At this point, we were all stuffed, but we could not pass on it, especially after seeing how appetizing they were!

The first two were kulfi, traditional Indian ice cream. There was pistachio kulfi:
image of pistachio kulfi at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

The second one was mango kulfi:
image of mango kulfi at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

Then there was my favorite Indian dessert: Gulab Jamun.
image of gulab jamun at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

These are cheese balls that are fried and then dipped in a sweet syrup. The way they served it is dry, meaning that they did not serve any of the sweet syrup with it.
Before we started, Roni told us that we should start with the ice cream first, so this is what we all did. The kulfi was very good: creamy and not too sweet, my preference went for the pistachio one. The gulab jamun were delicious too and not too sweet with a perfect texture. Definitely, the desserts were a hit!

We finished the dinner with a chai tea that was very good:
image of chai tea at The Masala Wala in NYC, New York

It was definitely a great tasting and I was excited to show the photos and tell Jodi how it was. It gave me the opportunity to try some spectacular dishes, the vegetarian ones being as successful as the non-vegetarian one (maybe some vegetarian restaurants should check out Indian cuisine so they understand that vegetarian food does not need to be bland!). The Masala Wala is not just another Indian restaurant in New York City and is worth a visit!

Enjoy (I did)!

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Please note that, in accordance with the FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I was contacted directly by the restaurant or a PR and that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!