If the words ‘MasterChef India’ mean anything to you, then you’re no stranger to Zorawar Kalra and his line of Massive Restaurants #PunIntended. Pune is a growing market, quickly catching up with biggies like Mumbai and Delhi, so Massive Restaurants’ entry into Pune’s buzzing food and bar scene comes as no surprise; especially given that the location of choice for their Masala Bar venture is Balewadi High Street. Those who have been to BHS even once in the past year know what I’m on about and those who haven’t, should. If not for anything else, then at least for the Masala Bar experience.
‘Chic’ is how I’d describe the interiors in one word, if I had to. ‘Modern,’ and ‘Snazzy’ if I were to do it with two…And I could go on. But never mind all that and also the killer progressive house that’s full-time on at a perfectly acceptable volume in the background, I did find the service to be rather tardy and it’s often a deal-breaker for me. The ambience, then, is superb, and the speed of service, sub-par. I’m sure though, that service is something they can work on and hopefully, they will. Soon.
Berry Cooler (₹200) – A berrylicious but slightly watered down cooler that could’ve used a little less tart in the flavor but was otherwise decently refreshing.
Heaven On Earth (₹200) – Loads of tropical fruit goodness, this one was the better of the two mocktails that I (barely) had.
Chai (whiskey) Pe Charcha (₹450) –
This beautiful beverage was a seamless blend of tea liquor and Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey. The tea base was an excellent choice to pair with that trademark boozy bourbon, which, while it was mostly mellow, had a nice bite towards the end of the sip. Oh, and the spices did WONDERS to this already brilliant combination. Highly recommended.
Comes with extra drama on the side at no extra cost.
Bollywood Tadka (₹450) –
Pineapple base with citrus overtones and more than anything – a spicy punch. Ever had pineapple slices by the roadside with loads of red chilli sprinkled on top? Of course you have. Now imagine if that same pineapple was soaked in rum. Bollywood Tadka was like the liquid version of this timeless classic. Once again, highly recommended.
Before we get into the appetisers, I want you to know that they far outweighed the entrees by a massive margin. And the entrees were genius…Just to put things in perspective. Alright, then.
Chini Chinese Bhel (₹60) –
Hands down, the best version of the chinese bhel I’ve had – EVER. Crisped to perfection and honey-glazed, this sweet, sticky, crunchy mess was an absolute delight. The greens added still more texture (as if that were possible) to this epic mixture of awesomeness. Highly, highly recommended.
Pyaaz ke chhalle, Anna gunpowder (₹60) –
If you thought classic onion rings couldn’t get better, you were wrong. So wrong. Well, if you did think they could get better that’s great, but you’ve still got to try the Masalabar take on the O.R. Good ole onion rings crisp-fried to perfection (you’re going to get tired of the word ‘perfection’ by the time you’re done reading this blog), with a generous dash of lovingly made dry malgapodi chutney sprinkled on top. The greens help, they really do. The whole thing is just ermahgerd!!
Karari Kaml Kakdi, Bangkok Salad (₹195) –
Thai salad (sans the fish sauce) with papaya, pomegranate, peanuts, julienned chives and some more summer-ey ingredients dressed in a tangy, vinegar-ey dressing and topped with crispy lotus stem cross-sections for extra bite. My favourite salad of the season by a margin.
Murugan Baby Idli (₹195) –
Cuboid-shaped soft idlis seasoned generously with that brilliantly potent malgapodi chutney and some chipotle sauce to go with it because why not. I was never a huge fan of fresh microgreens and all that I’d had here shattered my stupid grudge against all things green. The greens really do have a notable role to play in the whole thing. And I don’t mean the role of the villian.
Shish Tik-Tok Lamb Solanki (₹295) –
A super-pretty assortment of alternating chicken and mutton sheekh kebabs on a skewer, succulent to the ‘T’, juicy, moist and flavorful. The size of the morsels is the only issue I had, if any. I personally prefer tiny, bite-sized pieces on my plate. Makes things more convenient if nothing else. Still, a great thing to pair with, say, a crisp lager.
Paneer tikka, Achari Mayo (₹215) –
Succulent, fresh paneer discs generously smothered with achaari mayo that’s more achaar than mayo. I actually liked it that way. Again, the bells and whistles it’s garnished with, aren’t just for show. They do add a welcome texture to the otherwise soft paneer.
Kutch nu Kachhi Dabeli (₹205) –
Homemade steamed Paav, street-style flavor-packed Dabeli stuffing replete with the anaar daana and peanuts and what-have-you. All the drama, and even better-looking than the street-version. As if that were possible. Perfection on a stone plate.
Atom Bomb Wasabi Prawns Ghaas Phoos (sic) – (₹295) –
Tempura-fried prawns with what seemed like wasabi foam. The prawns were tempura-fried to perfection, juicy and moist inside (and outside from the sweet-tangy sauce). The ghaas phoos (salad and citrus fruit) rendered a nice sweet touch to the whole thing.
Lahori Murgh Laal Pyaaz (₹295) –
A greasy, creamy, buttery, savory, flavour-packed dish, this, with masala-marinated onions for even more flavor if you can handle it. Again, the only gripe I had with this was the size of the chicken leg pieces. Maybe it’s just me.
On to the entrées, then.
Mutton Ishtu Bowl (₹375) –
Slow cooked lamb is always a great thing to pair with delicately flavored pulav. The stock you see on the side gave the rice a very mellow creamy, gravy-ish angle. This is then a very satisfying one-pot meal that’s filling, too.
Calingut Prawn Curry, Nariyal CHawal (₹375) –
Fragrant coconut rice with juicy orange-curry prawns on top and a very gratifying goan curry that gives it even more coconut-iness. If you enjoy Malwani/Goan food and who doesn’t, this one will do you good.
Carbon Bhaaji Paav (₹315) –
This one’s for the senses, all four of them. Looks uniquely tempting, tastes greasily delectable, the textures are on point, and smells inviting like any great self-respecting Paav Bhaaji should. Just a tad too greasy for my liking (I’m getting old now) so maybe not so good for the waistline, as it is for the four senses. The chef insisted this is how greasy he means for this to be, too. #OhWell
The desserts, unfortunately, were underwhelming. What we had, at least. Perhaps you’ll have better luck with other desserts in the menu.
Masalabar Sundae (₹225) –
Milk, reduced to rabdi, and then set in the refrigerator to get THIS. Maybe I was expecting something extraordinary like everything else here but it was just ice-cream; Raspberry, Cardamom and Pistachio flavoured scoops, one of which had crystallised a bit, even. #NotCool
I’d probably skip this one and grab another one off the menu. And I would, because, expectations.
Calori Tower (₹295) –
Think calories. Lots of them. Think debauchery. Think cheating. Think of all things sweet and unhealthy because cheat-day comes only once a month. Vanilla Ice Cream binding together profiteroles, chocolate brownie chunks, chocolate chunks, sprinkles, whipped cream and I’m sure there was more in it that I could dare identify – the chef was really ‘messing about’, here #PunIntended. This dessert then, is an elegant mess that sadly, I’m not made for. I’d give this a pass, but to some, this might be exactly what you’re looking for. I can think of a few monsters who can polish this off in under five minutes. #OhWell
So the mocktails are good, the cocktails are simply great, the starters are just insane, the entrées are great and the desserts are alright. That’s a whole bell-curve for you. All in all, then I rate Masala Bar at a solid 4.5