Enter Masala Art, a restaurant that fuses its menu with culture and unique flavors with every bite. The owner of this spot is Atul Bhola, a former manager of Heritage India in Glover Park. He also managed to bring in former colleague and 11-year veteran chef Surinder Kumar, but to Bhola, he is just a good friend.
“I first opened the restaurant in October 2009. My chef also used to be the master chef at Heritage India,” Bhola said. “After I moved on and opened Masala Art, he came along with me, we enjoy each other’s company.”
Inside the 45-seat dining area is the dim candlelit room that adds a calm atmosphere. The Indian artifacts on display and the light green walls with Indian print bring in a cultural perspective that one could easily appreciate. However, the restaurant’s constant drumming and string of sitars that represent the sounds of India can sometimes make domestic patrons feel displaced, especially if they are eating at an ethnic place for the first time.
Mr. Bhola was nice enough to suggest the chicken 65, an appetizer that is basically an Indian recreation of chicken nuggets. They are boneless and tender gems of chicken doused in very hot and sweet spices while the cilantro adds a desirable aroma. It packs a powerful punch of flavor. One of the customer favorites is the Pani Poori appetizer.Puffed hollows stuffed with diced potatoes and chickpeas, topped with chutneys are delicious.
“We want the customers to definitely think about coming back when they leave the restaurant,” Bhola said. “We want them to enjoy the unique food and the best part is when they leave with a smile on their face,” Bhola said.
The menu includes special dishes such as Ghandeeri Seekh, chicken mince kabab on a sugar cane skewer or Tandoori Malai Paneer Kut, which are cottage cheese dumplings stuffed with crumbled paneer and raisins in a tamato based sauce. The sweet tanginess of Tamarind chutney sauce with the vegetable samosas melts in your mouth and overwhelms the taste buds pleasantly. The rock salt on top of cilantro naan (seasoned flatbread) is also highly recommended. The Gaulati Kabab with Ulta Tawa Parantha, is an entrée of hearty proportions. It’s a stacked plate that has a delicate mound of thyme-flavored rice, a side salad, a bowl of baal sauce, small slabs of flat bread and lamb kababs from Nizam. They all taste great with enhanced spices, especially when you mix and match combinations of food on the plate.
“Our chef cooks with ingredients that are mostly imported from India and many people enjoy the preparations and flavors, which are true to Indian tradition,” Bhola said.
For instance the Gaulati lamb, but I was slightly disappointed with the meat being really soft and meatloaf-like. One of the waiters was quick to explain the reason for the softness dates back to historical India and tradition. Hunters found it difficult to weaken tiger meat because it was too tough so they hunted and domesticated lamb instead. The meat is easier to beat to a lean and tender texture so the elderly or people with sensitive teeth can enjoy this delicacy as well.
The restaurant also offers over 29 choices on the wine list at half-prices Sunday through Thursday. The waiters are attentive and helpful (though experiences may vary). Other than that, Masala Art serves food that is undeniably full of savory goodness that will keep customers coming back for more as Mr. Bhola had planned.
Masala Art is open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 pm. Appetizers range from $3.50 to $5.25. Entrees are $8.50 to $21.50.
4441-B Wisconsin Ave. NW