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Do you know what this is?

Last updated on: October 14, 2014 17:30 IST

Mumbai's Masala Library experiments with molecular gastronomy, a discipline in food science that studies the chemical processes of cooking.

It is one of the hottest eateries in town and is said to have a two-week waiting.

Does it live up to its reputation? Harnoor Channi Tiwary stops by to find out.

India is an incredible country, vast and culturally rich.

It is no wonder then, that our culinary heritage is so vibrant as well.

There is nothing called 'Indian' food, just an amalgamation of a plethora of flavours, traditions, cooking styles and recipes.

Having said that, it is a sad reality that not many restaurants have been able to elevate Indian food to greater heights.

Until now.

Masala Library is a venture by renowned food columnist Jiggs Kalra of Punjab Grill fame.

Having heard a lot about the restaurant, I was sceptical about it delivering all it promises.

But, for once, the rumours were true.

Tucked into a by-lane of the corporate district of Bandra Kurla Complex, the restaurant sits next to Smoke House Deli and has nondescript interiors.

Done up in dark wood hues, the tables are set close together discounting the chance of a private conversation.

The menu offers a-la-carte options as well as a Chef's Tasting Menu (approximately Rs 2800-3,000 per person).

It is always a good idea to opt of the tasting menu at restaurants that offer the same.

It offers the chance to try a variety of flavours and allows the chef to present the philosophy of the restaurant to you, through his food.

Khandvi

The Tasting Menu started with an Amuse Bouche, a Khandvi sphere served on a soup spoon.

The perfect way to be introduced to molecular gastronomy, the bright yellow bubble is developed using a technique called reverse spherification to burst in your mouth with the characteristic flavours of Gujarati Khandvi.

Wild Mushroom Chai

Setting the tone for the meal to come, this is accompanied by warm freshly baked masala buns.

This was followed by the highlight of the meal, something they call Wild Mushroom Chai.

Served in a tea-pot, the mushroom consomme is poured over dehydrated mushrooms and truffle oil crumbs.

Do not go by the looks of it, one sip and you will be transported to a place where only the good things in life exist.

The consomme is intensely flavoured and each sip plays a little tango with your taste buds.


Curry leaf prawns

The next course was served in a shiny sea shell (yes, you heard that right) placed on a wooden log.

Curry leaf and pepper prawns served on curd rice with a side of crispy banana crisps.

The prawns were tossed with the perfect amount of spices and had a distinct bite to them.

They were perfectly complemented by the subtle curd rice and the crunch of home-made banana chips.

This was followed by a disappointingly average Galawat Kabab, presented with a Varqi Parantha.

The server then offered a palate cleanser, a-la-Masala-Library-style.

Frozen Mishti Doi in popsicle form, it didn't do much to cleanse my palate but the playfulness of the concept was interesting.


Butter Chicken

For mains, Hand Pulled Butter Chicken was served in individual platters and rich and creamy San Marzano Makhani gravy was poured around the chicken with a flourish.

It was complemented by a bowl of Anar Raita and served with rotis.

The butter chicken was delicious, neither overwhelmingly sweet nor spicy, with the perfect balance of flavours to entice you to go back for another bite.

But with the standards set by the chefs themselves, the main course fell short on the wow factor.

The rotis could have had an element of surprise or even the butter chicken itself.

In no way does that mean it wasn't good. Having seen what the kitchen is capable of, one tends to expect that extra bit more.

Thankfully, the dessert redeemed the meal.

Jalebi Caviar

If I saw Jalebi Caviar on the menu, chances are that I would not order it.

Thankfully, I was not presented with that option.

The tiny molecules of jalebi are characteristically crunchy and sit atop delicious rabdi.

Have a spoonful with some saffron foam that floats on the side and you are transported to gastronomical nirvana.

It is undeniable one of the most innovative dishes that an Indian restaurant has ever served. And for that, the chef deserves a standing ovation.

Paan-flavoured cotton candy

The meal ends with a glimpse of your childhood -- cotton candy with a twist, it is flavoured with paan.

The idea is playful and the execution splendid.

Masala Library deserves all the accolades that it has been bestowed with, and then some more.

It is not often that a restaurant takes the leap of faith and tries to chart new paths.

Unlike what I originally presumed, I am now convinced that the two-week waiting list for reservations is not a PR gimmick.

It is proof of the excellence of the talent in their kitchen and the fact that the discerning globetrotting Indian is happy to appreciate this world-standard culinary destination.

Photographs: Harnoor Channi Tiwary

Harnoor Channi Tiwary
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