Introducing molecular gastronomy and experimentation to Indian cuisine, Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library attempts a difficult feat but does promise an entertaining experience.
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Masala Library celebrates Indian food in its entirety, focusing not only on its inherent taste, smell and texture, but also on its cultural connotations.

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What it also attempts to do is elevate Indian food, and here’s where it, according to me, falters. The richness of our nation’s cuisine lies not only in its content of desi ghee, but in its complexity of flavour—that perfect commingling of myriad spices and that precise roasting, sautéing and grilling of meat and vegetables that results in one unified dish that overtakes the senses.

Pictured above is the Braised mutton chaamp, maple and kokum glaze

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Where Jiggs Kalra’s Library succeeds is when the embraces this idealogy, resulting in dishes like the robust gatte ki sabzi and the loaded dal makhni. It doesn’t quite make the grade when it overdoes its much-lauded ‘deconstruction’ resulting in dishes like the strangely tasteless vada pao and sev puri.

Pictured above is the Sabudana Tikki, an amuse bouche

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On your first visit—and the restaurant in Mumbai’s glittering BKC certainly calls for at least one visit—the amuse-bouches (those single bite-sized appetisers served free according to the chef’s choice) are a visual treat. The palette cleanser comes in the form of a mishti doi stick (topped with a refreshing strawberry-rose syrup) placed inside a pocket-sized silver trunk and the khandvi is served in a shot glass, which bursts with tart flavour as soon as you toss it down your throat.

Pictured above is the Sev puri served as an amuse bouche

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Delivering on the promise of their flamboyant presentation for the most part, these hors d'oeuvre are served intermittently through the meal, adding sparkles to the dining experience. Though menu spans the length and breadth of the country containing Peshawari, Kashmiri and Parsi cuisines, the Punjabi and Rajasthani dishes were the heroes of our meal.

Pictured above is the Papad sampler with various chutneys

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I have to mention the succulent laal maas, baby goat shank shimmered in Matani mirch sauce, and the complex bhindi jaipuri with churma and papad featuring crunchy okra and creamy yogurt sauce flavoured with fresh turmeric. The pesto kebab with a parmesan papad however, was a glorified hara bhara kebab, just a tad too heavy on the stomach, and the curry leaf and pepper prawn served on a seashell placed on a wooden platter was all show and very little substance. And that’s exactly the point. Do we really need the flourish and drama of molecular gastronomy when it comes to Indian food?

Pictured above is the Wild berries and lavender kheer

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Although it is great fun to read things like ‘coriander salt’, ‘khakra crisp’ and ‘dehydrated lasun chutney’ on the menu, does their taste really justify the whimsy—and the prices? Though I loved the performance that came along with the mushroom chai—when the waiter presented a flaky truffle oil powder in a cup, added dehydrated mushrooms (that resembled tea leaves) and then poured hot mushroom consommé, making the whole mixture bloom and unfurl into a lovely brown-gold tea—I’m not sure that its taste would hold up to its novelty, just like this Pinenut pattice, ragda humus, feta salad.

Pictured above is the Pinenut pattice, ragda humus and feta salad

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For a comprehensive experience, the nine course tasting menu will be your best bet with a bird’s eye view of the entire menu and a lion’s share of servings! Don’t make the mistake we did by trying to finish anything, even if it is just one kebab; the food here is richer than it needs to be.

I will go back to the Library to partake of their beautiful anda burji kulcha, caviar jalebi and Gulab jamun carpaccio, concentrating on the few dishes that not only combine innovative techniques but also live up to their antecedents.

Masala Library

Address: Unit No.003,Ground Floor, First International Financial Centre, G - Block, BKC Road, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East, Mumbai

Cost: Tasting menu Veg at Rs. 1900 + taxes and Non veg at Rs. 2100 + taxes