Fine Indian dining as it has never been seen before
Atmospherics: On the ground floor of a deceptively simple cube of a building, Masala Library is all set to shake up the world of Indian gastronomy. As central and desirable an address as you could wish for; plush yet simple inside as it is outside, while maintaining a timelessness in the décor and manned by cherry-picked staff. The cuisine is what sets this temple of gastronomy apart: it is the first known attempt to include a sprinkling from every region of India, including a kadhi risotto from Gujarat, litti chokha from Bihar and pork from Nagaland. What is more remarkable is that it has been put together in the molecule-altering style. There are no foams, no spherification in this kitchen: molecular cuisine has been taken to the next level, where banana stem has been reduced to ash to form an ingredient for – hold your breath – ice-cream, and where greens have been dehydrated to form a skin to top tawa boti. Masala Library is the restaurant that forces you to succumb to the chef’s whims by ordering the tasting menu. It will take 90 minutes and you will not regret it.
Table talk: Speaking for myself, I have always resisted tasting menus. They are too boring, most chefs treat them like self-indulgent monuments to indigestion and they go on for two hours or more. Not this one. Most dishes are just bite-sized and many leave you with the feeling of wanting more. Certainly, after 19 dishes (Rs 2100 for vegetarian; Rs 2300 for non-vegetarian; Rs 2200 extra for 6 glasses of paired wine), you won’t feel that you have over-eaten: that is the beauty of this tasting menu. If you do order a la carte, there are some dishes that are more filling than others. Gujarati kadhi risotto (Rs 425) is among the cleverest dishes where the earthiness of the kadhi combines with Italian rice to great effect. Radhuni sea bass with pui saag (Rs 895) features a generous chunk of softly flaking fish with a hint of the Bengali spice atop it. Curry leaf prawns, thair sadam (Rs 715) is elevated by the ambrosial curd rice. This is one restaurant that begs more than a few visits.
Must try: galawat kebab, air sheermal; charcoal bhajjiya; chocolate
Food: 4.50; Service: 4.50; Décor: 4.50
21A Janpath, adjacent to Le Meridien Hotel
Tel: 9205180003/4, 69400005/6
Open from 7 pm to 1 am
Will be open for lunch in three weeks from now
Alcohol served; wheelchair-friendly
Meal for two: Rs 8,500 (taxes extra)