You have to be looking for Masala to find it. A couple of U-turns off of 52nd St are required if you miss it off of Memorial Drive. We walked into a fairly plain setting. The walls are devoid of character and the fluorescent lighting does nothing for the ambience. Do not expect a dining experience here.
We were welcomed into what appeared to be a family run restaurant by their teenage son. The father was on a laptop in the dining area and mom and siblings behind the scenes. The boy, friendly and well spoken, seated us immediately and passed the menus around. The menu covers the standard Indo-Pakistani dishes and is augmented by a host of South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes.
Our order of vegetable samosas, chicken tikka, beef kebab, naan, chicken biryani, butter chicken, chicken curry, beef kothu and masala dosa was taken without much fuss. There was a bit of confusion with the ordering of the sweet, plain lassi and the mango lassi (always is, it seems – mango lassi seems to be the preferred selling choice).
The lassis arrived right away. Both the sweet and mango lassis were best described as healthy tasting; fresh and not too sweet. A short while later the samosas arrived. These triangular, deep fried pastries were hot and steaming. They appeared to be right off the fryer, though they were not greasy at all. Stuffed with peas, potatoes and an assortment of spices, they were a delight. A crispy bite combined the light sweetness of the peas with the spiciness of the potatoes, all of which was complimented by a tamarind sauce. In short mmmmm.
The second appetizer was the beef kabab. Spiced ground beef infused with coriander leaves and cooked in a clay oven, it is usually quite good most places. Here it was tender, melt in the mouth goodness, with a kick at the end. There were some accompanying chutneys which were not necessary and bland.
The chicken tikka arrived. This dish, also cooked in the tandoor (clay oven), had a nice charcoal flavour to it. The moist pieces were quite enjoyable.
The main courses started to arrive in succession. The naan was fresh and crispy and definitely a more than adequate accompaniment to the curry dishes.
The chicken biryani was very good. The individual flavours of the cinnamon, tamarind and cloves were quite strong and made for a very flavourful dish.
Of the two chicked curries, the butter chicken was decent, while the chicken curry was not. The butter chicken had a slight lemony tang to it and was very
creamy. The curry, unfortunately, was cold and overwhelming. The spice balance was all wrong.
The two Sri Lankan dishes we ordered were exceptional. The masala dosa was beautiful in presentation. A golden brown folded crepe, inside which the masala (spiced) potatoes were hidden. It is accompanied by a lentil curry dip which makes this a fun and flavourful dish to eat.
The kothu is traditionally a staple dish consisting of cut up roti, spices and, in this case, beef. It is pleasing to the eye and brought out with wedges of lime (lemon). Squeeze the fresh lime over it and enjoy the multitude of flavours emanating from the various ingredients. There are very few places in Calgary serving this dish and in the opinion of our resident SriLankan, “Definitely reminds me of home!”. I liked it too!
Masala has a friendly atmosphere and good food. Lacking in ambience, it’s draw is the promise of authentic cuisine. Try a dine-in visit, but at the very least do get some take out.