Last Saturday I had the absolute pleasure of dining at the much talked about Masala Library. Founded by culinary legend Jiggs Kalra who is fondly referred to as the Czar of Indian cuisine, my expectations were literally sky-high.
Jiggs Kalra is a living Indian culinary legend who has penned 11 books including ‘Prashad’ which is considered to be a chef’s bible for Indian cuisine. He is credited for reviving several lost cooking styles of ancient India including the introduction of age-old kebab recipes that were prized within the royal kitchens of yesteryears.
Masala Library is an award-winning restaurant in Delhi, the capital of India. It has been an inspiration behind many a successful restaurant and has finally opened doors in JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.
The interiors are strikingly contemporary-Indian featuring larger than life classic paintings and clay urn pillars juxtaposed with amber-lit walls. We were seated at a very secluded table for two with stunning views of the Dubai Canal.
The menu at Masala Library is based on three fundamentals; Progressive Indian (a play of modern ingredients and techniques including molecular gastronomy, yet with an underlying palate that stays true to the historic research of Indian cuisine), Kebab Trail (a special tribute to the royal Mughal kitchens), and Iconic Curries of India (a kaleidoscope of authentic flavors from the culturally diverse states of India).
As it was my very first time at Masala Library and I wanted to try it all, I decided to go for the Chef’s Tasting Menu. This 5-course menu costs AED 245 per person, and you can upgrade it with 4 glasses of wine for an additional AED 140.
Our dinner at Masala Library commenced with an interesting looking Amuse Bouche. What appears to be a nest housing two cracked eggs is in fact a shot-glass of a coconut milk concoction with a dollop of fresh mango puree.
Next came a round of snacks. These are all very popular Indian treats yet revamped into fine-dining status. The flavors stay true to taste yet seeing them firsthand will have you guessing what they are.
Take the below for example. Ever seen a samosa this pretty before? The Deconstruction Samosa features dollops of spiced potato, the flavoring identical to the conical classic. Yet here it is served on a crisp wafer.
Then there’s the Jhal Muri Cookie. The mustard oil tempered puffed rice classic is presented as a cookie. I missed the zing of mustard here, but liked the creativity that went into making it so presentable.
Last came the Farmer’s Staple. Inspired by the rustic everyday bread of Indian farmers, this grainy serving of paratha along with a freshly churned dollop of salted butter was a real treat.
Next came a soup trolley, and a very aromatic Mushroom Chai was put together right infront of us. Served as a tea, this soup is loaded with the goodness of truffle. Every sip was divinely delicious.
From the appetizers round, it is hard to choose a favorite. Loved the Caviar Malai Prawn that was garnished with rare and highly pungent Indian Pink Peppercorn. The Braised Lamb Chops were cooked to juicy perfection and that chutney glazing gave the meat a delicious sweetness that complimented it perfectly.
My other favorite was the Wagyu Pathar (stone) Kebab. This was prepared at our table. The chef expertly stir-fried a lean piece of fine Japanese Wagyu with a special blend of spicy Indian sauces, and it was served with dollops of radish and walnut chutney.
I also liked the Chili & Ginger Salmon. The fish was cooked beautifully. Love a serving of salmon that retains its pink color and moistness, and to accentuate the flavor and add a touch of Indian finesse, the salmon was served on a bed of Gur Keri Chutney (Indian jaggery and raw green mango chutney).
Then there was the Chicken Tikka 3-Ways; a succulent serving of tender boneless chicken that is marinated in traditional tikka masala and served with a tikka chutney and tikka wafer. My daughter loved the chicken tikka; however, I wasn’t too keen on the tikka chutney and wafer.
What I liked about the menu here is that the appetizers so far were delicately portioned. Nothing to excessively large yet satiating enough to give your palate a taste for the buck. We were pretty full, yet still had room enough to look forward to the Mains.
For our Main Course, we chose to try the Rajasthani Mutton Curry and the Scallops Moilee.
The Rajasthani Mutton Curry is not for the faint of palate. The fiery dried red chili base stays true to tradition, and it is served with a very crisp shell kachori on the side. The meat boneless and so very tender that it looks pulled.
The Scallops Moilee takes inspiration from South Indian cuisines. This dish features a generously large, plump and beautifully cooked scallop (if you watch Master Chef as much as I do, you’d know that cooking scallop to perfection is a very fine art). The scallop is then doused with a thick, creamy coconut milk gravy that will have you wiping the dish clean with the additional roti that is served on the side.
The main-course comes with two side dishes; a Nizami Haleem and a Multan Moth Daal.
The Nizami Haleem is garnished with mutton pickle. It is thick and moreish, and I loved the chewy texture of the wheat granules that ran through this royal treat.
The Multan Moth Daal is a green lentil preparation that is topped with moth-flour sticks. This dall has a very earthy, almost raw taste that didn’t quite work for me.
We drowned it all with two very pretty mocktails. There was a Berry Mocktail that has a cranberry base, and my favorite was the Passionfruit Mocktail that comes with a hint of chocolate and a chocolate wafer straw. Never thought passionfruit could work so well with chocolate.
Ending on a sweet note, we were served a platter featuring Ashen Kulfi (the traditional Indian ice-cream takes on a blackened hue thanks to the dehydration of coconut) and Malai Shakkarpara Leaf (sweetened saffron-flavored cream). My favorite was the cream; sinfully thick and textured with caramelized walnut.
The highlight of the dessert round was Masala Library’s signature Jalebi Caviar. The ever-popular jalebi is served as caviar pearls in a very dainty glass seashell along with fresh rabdi and cream. We whipped all three together and spooned it down in record time despite the hinderance of the delicate glass serving bowl.
Overall, we had a very memorable night at Masala Library. The Tasting Menu was a fine introduction to the creativity of a legend. We were hosted by a very friendly young man called Bobo from Myanmar who made us feel right at home and introduced us to every dish that was served. Love the interiors here too, so classy and perfect for that very special dinner date. I will surely be back to try out their A La Carte offerings.