Masala Art

Rock Salt & Cilantro Lime

After writing up our recent post on homemade Indian food, J & I were craving Indian last Friday. Luckily we already had plans to grab drinks in Tenleytown, so it was the perfect excuse to visit Masala Art in person (J had picked up takeout for us once before).

When I arrived, I was immediately taken with the atmosphere. From the exterior and its neighbors, you’d never suspect how subtly sophisticated and warm Masala Art could be inside. The music and noise level of conversations around the room were soft even though some of the tables are pretty close together. While I waited for J, I sipped on my delicious cocktail and perused the menu. I can’t recall the name of the cocktail, but it was a mix of amaretto, red wine and mint.

Although I was slightly overwhelmed by the choices on the menu, I appreciated the variety of options and price points (appetizers around $5.00 and entrees ranging from $10-22). We opted to go for several appetizers in order to try out more dishes.

Shrimp & Chicken

Our first dish ended up being by far my favorite. The Aloo aur Pyaz ki Bhaji (Juliennes of potatoes and onions in chickpeas batter) would be my hangover food of choice if I still lived in Tenleytown. Imagine a flavorful, slightly spicy mix of crispy french fries and a Blooming Onion (although that may discount how tasty these are) all rolled into one. With two sauces to tame or add to the flavor, I could have eaten 10 of these. Maybe the best thing I’ve eaten since the bocadillos at Estadio.

Next up, the Chicken 65 (chicken tossed in South Indian masala) and Jheenga Porchai Yera (spicy tempered prawns). We paired these with the rock salt and cilantro naan. We should have ordered rice and/or a vegetable at this point.

Both dishes were spicier than our attentive waiter led us to believe, but not overly so. They each evoked barbecue flavors- the chicken more of a tomato-base, and the prawns more a wing flavor.

Our last two dishes were perhaps the most interesting, but our least favorite flavor-wise. Dahi Bhalle, velvety lentil dumplings in yogurt sauce, and Bhelpuri, which was puffed rice, chickpea vermicelli, peanuts, chopped onion, diced mango, cilantro and drizzled with tamarind chutney.

Dahi Bhalle

We had spotted numerous orders of the Bhelpuri, which essentially looked like taco salad bowls, so obviously the description enticed other diners too. Unfortunately, the description didn’t live up to our expectations, and it amounted to a bowl of Rice Krispies and Corn Puffs. With extra chutney and maybe another sauce for added flavor and moisture, I would have enjoyed the dish more, but the flavor was just not there like it had been in previous dishes.

For all the crunch that the Bhelpuri had, Dahi Bhalle lacked. The ‘velvety’ adjective used by the menu description is perfectly accurate, but the dish was too one note for me.

I’m already anticipating my next visit to Masala Art with friends in tow to sample more of the dishes. While it might not quite reach the heights of Rasika‘s Indian, it’s a more affordable and worthy option; our bill came to $45 w/out tax.

Check out Masala Art at 4441 B Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20016.

Homemade Indian

Heads Up: These recipes call for considerable marination time. If you’re looking for a quick recipe, you may want to check elsewhere.

J &  I love Indian food. Seriously, we love it.

The ingredients, the intense flavors and spices, the way the main dishes, sauces and side dishes sometimes taste even better when mixed together than when eaten separately. We’d probably cook Indian a couple of times a week if the recipes didn’t require as much time and effort as they usually do.

So moist and delicious.

So moist and delicious.

One Saturday night last month we tried out a couple of new recipes. I had my former roommate and her husband over for dinner and they love Indian almost as much as we do. We selected chicken makhani (butter chicken) and curry leaf potatoes, both from the amazing Washington Post food section. For our side, I also made our homemade naan.

You can find the recipe for the chicken makhani here and the curry leaf potatoes here.

These recipes proved to be less prep work than some of the previous Indian recipes we’ve tried. You can also marinade the chicken the day before, which breaks up the workload and would really intensify the flavor. We only marinated our chicken for maybe 45 minutes, and it was still delicious.

A few recommendations: Add more more chili powder if you like spice. The chicken baked to perfection at about 25 minutes, rather than the 40 the recipe said. We marinated more chicken to go with the leftover rice the next night, and without the sauce it was perfectly delicious, if you want to cut time and calories.

The potatoes were a hit as well, although we did have to compromise on some of the more obscure ingredients we couldn’t find at Whole Foods or Safeway, including the curry leaves.

I’ve used the same or similar naan recipe a few times now, and I won’t be using it again. The dough has never sufficiently risen and the consistency of the bread is too tough. It’s decent enough, but I’ll be looking around for a better option for the next time we’re craving Indian. If you’re interested in at least viewing the recipe, it can be found here.