Decadence is the mainstay of Awadhi cuisine, with melt-in-your-mouth kebabs, rich curries, wholesome biryanis and creamy desserts. And Masala Bay at Mumbai’s Taj Land’s End delivers on pretty much all these points with their revamped menu that is Awadh-inclined. This menu has changed after two years; regular guests will find that nearly 60% of the menu is dedicated to new entrants, while the rest remain a permanent address for house specials.
Among the appetisers, the deceptively simple looking Jhinga Dum Nisha (INR 2,150) had a charred crunchiness on the corners, while the centre of the tiger prawns was cooked to perfection, oozing with the rich flavours of Awadhi mixed spices. Our favourite was the Aatish-e-Chaap (INR 1,250)—the delightfully flavoured chicken cuts were tender, probably oven-roasted. It was mild, juicy, cooked to perfection in the tandoor giving it that smokiness.
In the main course, we must first talk about the delicious Methi Murg (INR 1,250). The chicken was swimming in a thick sauce of fresh fenugreek leaves, onion paste and delicate spices; we definitely don’t mind these kinds of greens with our chicken. The balance of flavours was what impressed us. The Methi Chicken that we have tried in the past at other eateries has usually been a bit bitter, or the chicken not so soft. We faced none of those issues with this preparation, so a big thumbs-up.
The Paneer Makkhanwala (INR 950) with its mellow tomato-cream gravy was subtly spiced and was spot on with its consistency. The Dal Makhni (INR 950), though not a new entrant on the menu, is a must because it’s terrific and a house specialty, finished with butter and cream. With plenty of butter and secret house spices, cooked overnight over low flame, pure ‘Dum-Style’, makes this dal rich, creamy and delicious.
The assortment of Rotis had a few surprises too. The Masala Naan (INR 225) was delectably spiced, and paired well with the vegetarian curries. The crisp Ajwain Paratha (INR 225) when dunked in Dal Makhni was an interesting combination too. Then there were the usual suspects—Tandoori Roti (INR 225) and Butter Naan (INR 225)—to be paired with the non-vegetarian curries.
The highlight of the evening was the dessert—hand’s down, one of the best Shahi Tukda (INR 600) we have had because it got one key element right—the balance of crispy and creamy. Many eateries take shortcuts while preparing this Awadhi bread pudding, resulting in a soggy disappointment. But not this one. Flavoured with cardamom, and topped with laccha rabdi and malai, it was a delight with every bite.
I guess it’s a setback of the cuisine—it is non-vegetarian-focused and, as a result, the vegetarian fare was a tad bit disappointing. The Methi Bhutte Ke Tikki (INR 850) was non-oily (that’s a plus) because the patty was shallow fried, but the sweet flavour of the corn was non-existent. The Dasta-E-Khamb (INR 850), the chilli and ginger stuffed tandoori mushrooms too were average. In the mains, the Subz Baoli Handi (INR 950) was too run-of-the-mill. When veggies come together with yoghurt, spices and a cashew nut paste, you expect a mild and aromatic result, so it left us wanting for more.
The Nalli Nihari (INR 1,450), though the lamb shank was tender and was falling off the bone—a clear indication that it was braised on a slow flame—was a dash too salty for our taste buds, but the other flavours (we were told they were exclusive ‘Lucknowi Nihari Masala’) were on point.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wallet alert: INR 3,000 (for two)
Where: Masala Bay, Taj Lands End, Bandstand, Bandra West, Mumbai
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