Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra: Is it the Kohinoor in Delhi's Culinary Crown?

Harnoor Channi-Tiwary  |  Updated: August 10, 2016 17:26 IST

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Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra: Is it the Kohinoor in Delhi's Culinary Crown?

Jalebi Caviar; Photo credit: Masala Library


Masala Library opened its doors in Lutyen's Delhi on 18th July and from the word go, lived up to its Mumbai cousin's reputation of being booked out for weeks ahead. The irony lies in the fact that it was never even on the cards. Dildeep Kalra, Director, Massive Restaurants, shared that they had always planned Mumbai's Masala Library to be the only child. But when this space popped up next to Le Meridien, which was originally a Ferrari store (how apt, considering Zorawar Kalra's love for racing and cars), they just couldn't let it go. And thus was born Delhi's own Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra. 

The location is, in my opinion, a masterstroke. Set right in the heart of Lutyen's Delhi, one can quite imagine this to be where the power circles of the capital will hobnob. Politicians, businessmen from Golf Links, and corporate honchos from Connaught Place now have an elite and exclusive dining space to visit. Keeping this in mind, there is also a private dining area, completely segregated from the main room, which can be booked for privacy.
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As you enter Masala Library, the first word that comes to your mind is 'grandeur'. The high ceiling and double-storey glass facade give it a sense of space and royalty. The décor itself walks a fine balance of majestic and minimalistic, an incredibly difficult feat to achieve. The chandelier has been manufactured inhouse by their designers and is nothing less than a work of art. The bar itself has a ceiling-high display that boasts of perhaps the most extensive wine list outside of a five-star hotel. The tables however, stand out in their simplicity. There is not even a flower vase or candle in the centre. Save for the tall wine glasses and plain white napkins, they are completely bare, thus achieving the balance we spoke about.
 
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The best way to understand the philosophy of a restaurant is to try the tasting menu. Very few restaurants offer one and many critics do not like them much, as they can go on for hours. Masala Library's tasting menu has as many as 19 courses, but they are presented almost like a well orchestrated symphony, never giving you a moment to wonder when the next course will arrive. Pricey, it definitely is, at Rs. 2300++ per person, but an experience that you will surely remember. The courses are split into four sections - snacks, appetisers, mains and desserts. But the beauty of the menu lies in the thought that has gone into curating it. A few courses with carbs are expertly followed by a few with protein and at no point do you question why a certain course has been included.

The meal, as Zorawar reveals, is a journey not just across India but the Indian Sub-Continent. The restaurant was reportedly launched six months later than scheduled because the team went traveling across the country and beyond, trying to discover flavours that they wished to bring to life here. And the flavours they have selected do stand out. The portions are all bite sized thus you do not feel satiated by the end of the eight course, wondering how you will plough through.
 
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Deconstructed Samosa

There are some dishes on the menu that stand out and some that are overshadowed. The Mango Sphere (served in a ceramic egg shell) is thankfully the only 'drama element' (besides an intriguing levitating act at the end), considering how restaurants have taken to spherification these days. The Deconstructed Samosa is delicious and crisp. Served as a sliver (baked, not fried), if you close your eyes, there is no distinguishing it from a steaming hot samosa out of the kadhai. The Charcoal Bhajjia comes smoked and almost burnt. The flavours however, are ingenious, beating even Gaggan's 'Charcoal' inspired dish (which is no mean feat, beating Asia's Best Restaurant).

The Farmer's Plate has literally a tukda of bajra roti, stuffed with caramalised onions and all things nice. Served with hand-churned white butter, this is another winner. The Mushroom Chai, an import from their Mumbai branch, is as ethereal as I remembered it to be, the dehydrated truffle oil lifting it several notches up. Dildeep's favourite, the Naga Pork, is literally to die for. Topped with burnt chilli beans, the flavours are true and bold. The prawn, the pepper mutton and the sea bass with pui saag - there is plenty on the menu which will keep you enamoured through this journey.
 
Naga Pork

Like most journeys, there are a few stops that feel unnecessary, or perhaps are overshadowed by the excellence in the other dishes. The scallops are just alright and the fermented Pakodi Dal failed to impress. Dessert is served on a platter, and has a few surprises. Skip the Ashen Kulfi (which looks stunning), have a bite of the incredible Jalebi Caviar (another Mumbai import) and focus all your attention on this thin sliver which is their version of Chenna Payesh. It is delicate, delicious and the perfect end to your meal.
 
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Palate Cleanser

With Farzi Café and now Masala Library, Zorawar Kalra seems to have taken it upon himself to make Connaught Place a culinary destination, reverting Central Delhi to its former glory. Masala Library stands apart in every sense, and in many ways doesn't compete with any restaurant in town. Whether it is a client dinner or an occasion to celebrate, there are few (if any) places in NCR that can match up to the experience that is offered here. Expensive, yes. But worth every penny.

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Meal for Two: Rs.6,000

Address: 21A Janpath, Next to Hotel Le Meridien, Delhi

Timings: 7pm - 1am

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What to Order: The Tasting menu. If you are going A la carte, order the Mushroom Chai, Naga Pork and Chenna Payesh.

Wine Pairing: Wine pairing is offered with the tasting menu for an additional Rs.2200 per head. The selection of wines is fantastic.

CommentsPro Tip: It is a good idea to call and check for reservations, even at short notice, in case they have cancellations.


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