Masala Specializes In Indian And Indonesian Cuisine
Masala’s owners, Kaiyum and Kabir, have a long history of successful Indian restaurants in Western Queens. They opened their first in Sunnyside in 1992. In seven years they literally outgrew the space and moved to a larger place on Grand Avenue, where they continued their success for six more years. Now their crowning achievement is their new home on 61st Street in Woodside. Masala opened just two months ago, with a larger, more sophisticated dining room featuring rich, curry-colored walls with cinnamon wainscot above rustic, wooden plank floors. A sleek bar will soon offer all favorite beers, wines and cocktails, but for now, diners are welcome to bring their own bottle.
The same expert chef whose cooking has made these restaurants so successful for the past 13 years still prevails in the kitchen. This reviewer happens to love Indian cuisine and I can honestly say that Masala offers some of the finest Northern and Southern Indian cuisine as well as a selection of delicious Indonesian dishes. Best of all, the prices are amazingly low and the service is excellent.
We started with a selection of appetizers, perhaps my favorite part of an Indian meal. Samosas are tender, flaky pastry triangles filled with vegetables, potato and mild spices ($2.50). You must try their tikka kabab, tender chunks of chicken or beef, marinated in mild spices and slow cooked in a traditional, clay tandoor oven ($3.95). The intense heat renders the meat supremely tender and succulent. Kabir suggested we try the shrimp poori and we were glad we did. The tender shrimp were cooked in a lightly spiced tomato sauce and served with poori bread, a light, puffed bread that helps soak up the delicious sauce ($4.95). Even Masala’s condiments are special here. Try spooning on some of their sweet tamarind sauce, green chili sauce, or spicy onions for an extra special kick. I loved their raitha, a traditional yogurt sauce with shredded carrots and cucumber. Speaking of yogurt, order a mango lassi, a cool and creamy drink made with fresh fruit and yogurt, perfect for cleansing the palate between courses.
Masala’s entrees include chicken, lamb, beef and seafood, as well as a host of vegetarian and rice dishes to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budget, starting at just $5.95. Masala, for which the restaurant is named, is a mixture of mild spices and cream and tikka masala is one of my favorite dishes. Tender chunks of boneless chicken, lamb or beef from the tandoor oven are cooked in a zesty cream sauce that is mildly spiced ($8.95). Also try seafood masala with shrimp, salmon and scallops in delicious masala sauce. Curry is another blend of spices that comes in all colors and intensities. Chicken or lamb kashmiri is a mild curry dish with fresh pineapple, cooked in a light cream sauce. Chicken jalfrazi cooked with peppers and onions in a somewhat spicy sauce has a little more kick. If you like hot and spicy food as I do, then you should try the vindaloo, a three-alarm treat made with chicken, lamb or beef. The spicy sauce is great when spooned over fluffy basmati rice, which comes with every entrée.
If you prefer to keep things simple, shrimp or chicken tandoor is served without any sauce. Tender, garlic lamb chops are marinated and then cooked in the tandoor oven. Indian breads, baked on the spot, are delicious. Be sure to order at least one, such as garlic or onion nan, multi-layered paratha bread stuffed with meat or vegetables, or deep fried poori. Vegetarians can choose among several dishes such as saag ponir, made with spinach and homemade cheese, or lentils prepared with mild or hot spices.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Masala offers some Indonesian specialties as well. Nasi means rice and Nasi Gorang is a traditional Indonesian fried rice dish made with minced meat and mild spices and topped with egg ($7.95). I mixed this delicious rice with some of the por ayam, a chicken dish made with creamy coconut milk and pineapple for a unique taste that I will be back for.
Whether you choose to dine Indian or Indonesian, cool your palate with homemade pistachio ice cream, mango ice cream or Indian style rice pudding, scented with cardamom, honey and pistachios.
Kaiyum and Kabir invite their clientele from their previous locations and welcome new customers who live and work in the neighborhood to Masala. Station stops on the No. 7 train and Long Island Rail Road are just down the street, making Masala a great place to drop in after work. Masala’s delicious food can be ordered for take out as well, with free delivery to your home or office, from noon to 10 p.m. Lunch specials are served weekdays, priced from $4.95 to $6.95.
High quality ingredients and expert cooking are the secret to Masala’s success. The food is never heavy, oily or overly spiced, and the service is great too. I can’t wait to visit Masala again. Join me and welcome Masala to the neighborhood. They’re open seven days a week from noon to 11 p.m. Credit cards are accepted.
Masala Indian Cuisine
39-26 61st St. Woodside