Friday, January 9, 2009

Masalas: 7301 W 91st St

Friday, January 9, 2009
Don't even try to go here on a Sunday afternoon unless you have time. The place is packed with whatever the Hindu equivalent of the "after church crowd" is. I'm telling you, it's stuffed to the gills with Indian families hitting the buffet en masse. During the week it's a somewhat different affair, though still largely patronized by Indians. It doesn't take a genius to know that this is a very, very good sign.

Johnson County is full of good Indian restaurants. I'm not going to venture a guess as to why JoCo seems to have better Indian grub than the city proper, but rest assured it is true. KC has Taj Mahal on Wornall, Korma Sutra in Westport and that place on 39th street that no one I know has ever been to (any place I'm missing?). JoCo has Paradise India, India Palace, Ruchi, Touch of Asia (!), Kabob & Curry and now Masalas, which could be the nicest of them all. This is not a low-brow Indian buffet, but rather a very classy looking establishment with decor that knocks the socks off any other place in the vicinity.

Masalas

For those who haven't seen it, Masalas is located in the old Ohana Grill building right in front of Whole Foods. It takes up half the building; the other half is clearly under renovation. Since Masalas' windows are tinted, I wouldn't blame you if you thought it wasn't open yet. You can't see inside at all, so when you approach the doorway and draw aside the heavy curtains it is like entering a secret little world. A secret world that everyone knows about, because this place is doing very good business so far.

The buffet is tucked away in the corner. Dishes are presented in fancy, shiny silver chafing dishes. Several cooks work behind a counter curiously labeled "Masala Factory." I don't think the choice here is much larger than any other buffet, but it does seem like there are more vegetarian options. The usual suspects appear: Tandoori chicken, pakorahs, Dal Makhani, Aloo Ghobi, Chicken Tikka Masala, a couple soups, the usual chutneys, two kinds of rice, fruit and other desserts. There was a strange chicken dish that looked just like a Chinese stir-fry that I didn't even try. No samosas that day either.

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One odd omission on the buffet was Naan, the delicious fluffy bread that is a staple of Indian cuisine. I went back to my table and the server immediately brought out a large basket of freshly baked naan. They do this at Taj Mahal too, and it really makes a huge difference to have it freshly baked.

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I tried a number of dishes and I'll try to remember what was what. The tandoori chicken was excellent-the only comparable tandoori appears on the India Palace buffet. Chana masala, a delicious chick pea dish was actually surprisingly spicy. I had two helpings. The sweet corn and spinach was also excellent. The ubiquitous butter chicken was way too rich for my taste, and I couldn't finish it. I had some chicken dish (can't recall the name) where the meat was all hacked and shredded to hell. Naturally I had high hopes, but it wasn't all that flavorful. I remember some of the food being a tad on the sweet side. Undoubtedly the high point of the meal was the goat curry. Mind you there is a little gristle and bone to content with, but it is worth the effort to experience the slightly spicy, tangy gravy with a touch of anise flavor.

In general, this is a very good lunch buffet. The service was excellent too. When I came back from a second trip to the buffet, my dirty plate had been cleared, and I had a re-fill and a new napkin. The buffet will set you back $10, a drink another $2, but I really think it is worth the price. If the lunchtime crowds persist, it may become a slight annoyance given the availability of other quality Indian buffets in the area. But anyone who likes Indian food should try Masalas.

Read more:

Masalas Authentic Indian Diner on Urbanspoon

Yelp

15 comments:

JustCara said...

Thanks for the review. As a weekly Touch of Asia diehard I feel like I'm cheating on them by going to another Indian restaurant, but I'll definitely give Masala's a try. Who says I can't have Indian food twice a week? :)

PS: Give Swagat in Zona Rosa a try - it's excellent and upscale as well.

sallymander said...

Don't forget about Korma Sutra's original location on the back side of the strip that Panera and Kinko's is in at College and Metcalf. They have a very good lunch buffet as well.

Owen said...

I've fallen in love with Masala's and am a once-a-week patron right now. Really good stuff across the board.

JH said...

I haven't made it over to Masalas yet, but it is on my list. I think that dish that looks like Chinese stir fry is Chinese stir fry. If I'm not mistaken, the owner of Masalas hired the former owner of Ohana to work there. When Masalas first opened there was an entire "Indo-Chinese" section on the (online) menu. It was removed rather quickly.

ww said...
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ww said...

Masalas is the bomb. You might remember Max from New Peking or Max's Noodles, good guy, good restauranteur, great food. Please go, I want this place to make it in this difficult time. KC needs a little Indian variety which this place has.

pom. said...

Aww man. I loved Masalas. I tried to get Roommate to go for the goat curry. I thought the tandoori chicken was excellent - slightly smoky, really yum. I'm not usually a buffet fan but I definitely love being able to just sample a ton of stuff. Beebs enjoyed the naan. I'm going to have to try some of those other places listed as well.

Kavitha said...

There's a whole host of other Indian restaurants, which you may already be aware of, but here a few more anyway:

Ruchi - College & Antioch, in the little strip mall on the SW side.

India Cafe - across the street from Masala's by the TJ Maxx (one of my favorites!)

And the absolute latest (opened just yesterday) - Chilli N Spice on 133rd and Antioch.

Looking forward to the reviews!

The DLC said...

Thanks Kavitha, Chili N Spice was not on my radar so I'll be sure to get down there someday. There's also Touch of Asia on Metcalf and 105th that people tell me is good.

constantgardener said...

We tried out Chilli n Spice Indian Bistro and based on our experience it leaves a lot to be desired. The menu card's useless because only 70% of the items were actually available. We started off with Mango Lassi and Cutlet and that first impression seemed good. However, when the main course arrived we felt like we were badly let down. The Neelgiri Kurma was horrible and you could tell that the frozen vegetables used in the preparation were not cooked right. Phulka Roti was like papads(chips) and the Paratha was clearly the frozen Kawa Paratha that you can get from any grocery store. (KC India Mart's right next to it!). I think you get 4 of those for 3 bucks except here you get 4 for 6 bucks. The only saving grace was that because we went there early in the evening, the crowd was less. The place seems like it's well maintained (but it's new). All in all, I don't think we'll go there again unless several people tell us that they've improved.

faiz said...

Masalas is good but its tooo expensive 13.99 Plus tax on Buffet.Where as you can eat the same good food at Ruchis at 9.99.I prefer Ruchi :)

Azngel said...

i thought masalas was horrible. everything tasted watered down and bland. indian food is all about spices and flavor and masalas lacked both. i FAR prefer indian palace on 87th or ruichi.

RoxasKingdom said...
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Steve said...

I just tried the Lunch Buffet at Chilli n Spice Indian Bistro at 133rd St and Antioch and its really good. I was just driving by to Sams Club and found this place in the small strip mall. The food is excellent and the price is very reasonable($7.99) and includes my favorite Mango Lassi. The bread is exceptional and very fresh and they have a large variety of dishes.

Matt said...

Masalas has begun the downhill slide, I think. The last couple times we've gone there, I've been horribly disappointed in the food. My wife's butter chicken was made from leftover tandoori chicken bits, which totally changed the flavor dynamic. The lamb koorma was full of gristle. All in all, I don't plan on going back unless I hear that they've improved.
I tried to email my concerns to them, but any e-mail attempts to contact the restaurant (via their website) bounced back to me as undeliverable. Surely that can't be a sign of a restaurant that plans on being around much longer...

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