Signature brand 'Masala' comes to Bangalore
Masala Klub, the new restaurant at the Taj West End, holds the key to a repertoire of influences which are a mélange of the best recipes from North and South India, adapted to a contemporary, light menu. Visually stunning in every way, this 108-seater elegant Indian restaurant is located by a 120-year-old tamarind tree, and serves up stylishly crafted native culinary fare in a sophisticated setting.
It started with an eight-year-old dream of corporate chef Hemant Oberoi to reinvent authentic Indian cuisine. It became 'Masala', a circle of restaurants where time-tested ingredients are given a new life. Gone are the masks of butter, cream and cashew-based gravies. Instead, extra virgin oil and well-researched preparation techniques are used to retain authentic flavours. Chef Hemant Oberoi, the brain behind the Masala brand, is faithful to the diverse homemade dishes of India, at the same time evolving this rich accumulation of recipes to the next level of modernity.
Why the name Masala Klub?
The menu at Masala Klub picks from the best of the three Masala restaurants — Art, Craft and Bay — and adds a range of inspirations from south India. Hence the name Klub — a mélange of the best Masala creations.
Oberoi and his team of chefs have travelled over a period of time across Punjab — Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ambala and Chandigarh — to retrace and revive old cuisines for the Masala restaurants. "Tandoori chicken, butter masala and Sheekh Kebabs are not on the menu. We want to break the myth that Indian food is heavy and oily," informs Chef Oberoi. "In fact, the open kitchens in the restaurants provoke guests to regulate oil and spice levels in the food on request." Led by executive chef Sandeep Kachroo, the team also travelled across south India to get the inspirations and authenticity of the cuisine. The cuisine is a genuine Indian experience with a fundamental difference: the masalas are used judiciously to complement rather than overshadow the other ingredients, to recreate flavors in international cooking styles. The result – an exciting blend of traditional Indian flavours mingling with the new. "During our journey across the country we were amazed by the variety in Indian cuisine and how a simple blend of spices which varies from home to home can transform basic ingredients into something extraordinary," explains chef Kachroo.
Signature items include the Paperwali Machchi — fish fillets drizzled with freshly ground peppercorns enveloped in parchment paper and char grilled without oil in an open pit, and Murg Khatta Pyaaz — a combination of chicken with pickled onions, brought to a pleasing pungency with burnt garlic, a speciality of the Taj Masala restaurants. The tamarind tree is, in a sense, the leitmotif of the restaurant with some signature dishes, drinks, and cocktails featuring products of this tree like the delightful tamarind chutney sorbet. Also, the presentation of food and the way it is served in terms of cutlery and crockery is all very edgy, stylish and modern.
Warm silver tones and the splash of saffron lacquer panels on the ceiling pay homage to the lacquer work seen in south India. The restaurant interiors are simple and clean, with sandstone accents, spilling out into the verandah and the gardens beyond, which of course is part of the charm of the Taj West End. The verandah is accented with a collection of decorative lights that are almost Victorian in attitude, and dance along the perimeter of the verandah, in a collection of cranberry and aubergine glass, adding sparkle to the night sky. Furniture styles are contemporary and comfortable - lounge chairs with curved timber backs, and metal and timber dining versions of the same. The furniture layout gives the restaurant an uncluttered chic space. Lead architects WATG of London, have created a space that is both enticing and comfortable, while Lim Teo Wilkes of Kuala Lumpur, the interior designers, have incorporated elements that will stimulate and delight.
Wines and beverages
The service staff has been well trained to provide suggestions on the wines that enhance the cuisine. The open wine cellar in the restaurant offers one of the finest new world / traditional wine collections in the city (a total of 225 labels) alongside traditional Indian beverages like sugarcane juice. The idea is to make this intrinsically Indian drink available to those who love it but stay away due to concerns of hygiene. The freshly squeezed juice is a signature drink at all the Masala restaurants.
Tamarind chutney sorbet: The tamarind chutney sorbet is a tribute to the 120-year-old tamarind tree and is a delightful concoction of dates, fruit and tamarind.
Phulka trolley: Heard of a phulka trolley floating around in a restaurant? Masala Klub gives you home-style phulkas straight off the tawa right next to your table. The phulkas are made of atta which is ground fresh everyday in the portable chakki of Masala Klub's fabulous kitchen.
Lightness: In the Masala cluster of restaurants, there is a deliberate emphasis on hand pounded Indian masalas cooked in olive oil that results in the dishes being lighter and fresher.
Masala Studio: The Masala Studio engages you with the chef while he prepares your meal in an interactive setting. Guests can chat with the chef while they watch their food being created.
Masala Grill: The Masala Grill is an innovative concept introduced at Masala Klub where you do your own grills at the stone grill tables. This is a unique concept where guests are involved in cooking their own meals to some extent. Matterhorn stones are procured from Switzerland and are electrically heated. The stones have been marinated in herbs, saffron for 15 days to impart flavours to the food.
According to PK Mohan Kumar, area director and general manager, The Taj West End, "The food brings out many undiscovered facets of Indian cuisine with the use of time tested masalas and ingredients that have been transformed by our chefs to create a fresh new taste beyond the usual curry and spicy, heavy range. The taste has been tempered to suit the discerning.”