Article mis en ligne le jeudi 17 février 2011
I had to start somewhere. So I started with an expert. Indian cuisine had always been a mystery to me. Which brought us, including our expert, to the Masala Palace. Atmosphere and décor are important, right? To me, the best-ever restaurant in Montreal was Au Pierrot Gourmet. Its atmosphere was a German Shepherd that snoozed in the kitchen and its décor was a couple of French travel posters. But the food: Fabulous!!! So, I never pay much attention to A & D.
And now to Masala Palace. The décor is simple, attractive, clean and the owners are friendly. Next!
I told my expert I wanted to sample small quantities of as many dishes as possible. Like my current passion, mezze. My dinner companions thought I’d never leave the appetizers menu. We tried three: Onion Bhaji; kind of like a fritter deep fried with lentils and chick pea powder, served with mint and pineapple sauces. You’re tempted just to eat the sauces with a spoon. Yum. Next up was a Sheek (yes, it’s spelled correctly) Kebab. Ground beef mixed with herbs and spices, skewered and cooked over flaming charcoal. Quite mild but kind of chewy although it came with a really nice cucumber sauce.
While dishes were flying all over the place we were served a home-made hot sauce: Spicy hot and temperature hot. BUT, this rookie handled the heat well. Note to “heat rookies”: The idea of heat is not to burn your mouth into submission. Well prepared and correctly used hot sauces give a nice buzz to the dish (and to the mouth), improve the food’s flavour and have a good flavour themselves. But you have to ease into it.
Third appetizer: Bhoona Prawn and Puri; small prawns cooked with herbs and spices and served on a slab of deep-fried whole wheat bread. I love anything with seafood and these little guys measured up. And the bread was delicious too! Another nice touch was a bowl of Raita. Yoghurt, onion and cucumber. Very soothing if you overdo the heat.
Main courses. Chicken Biryani, which you also can have with lamb, shrimp or veggies. It’s fried with coconut, sultanas, almonds, tomatoes, onions and garlic. You know the expression, ‘try it, you’ll like it.’ You’ll like it. Then our expert decided it was time to head for the heat again and ordered Bangalore Pal—a hot, highly flavoured curry with the meat being lamb. This time the heat rookie handled it like a major-leaguer. One downer: The butter chicken. Not a success.
Finally, the hit of the evening, a side dish of all things--Brinjal Bahji--a fried, dried curry prepared with onions, tomatoes, green peppers, spices and containing the featured ingredient, eggplant. Outasight! We all enjoyed the nan bread, but Masala Palace makes a garlic nan with green chili. Don’t miss it.
And that’s about it.
Oh, by the way, they’ve got some great Indian beer too.
[ Paul Shubin ]