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Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Mumbai

Jiggs Kalra’s ambitious Masala Library opened in Bandra-Kurla Complex last Saturday, which may be followed up with a couple of more branches in other cities. The restaurant that uses key words like “progressive Indian cuisine" and molecular gastronomy on its website, presents “authentic" Indian food in an unconventional style. The concept is not new to Mumbai; Ziya at The Oberoi has attempted it with mixed success.

The good stuff

With dominating beige/brown colours and a wooden ceiling that’s become so popular in Mumbai these days, Masala Library is warm and brightly lit. This over 90-seater has used space generously, is open for lunch too and has a knowledgeable staff, who serve everything with dramatic flourish.

The Watermelon Chaat with orange segments and nut cracker ( 275) is loaded with variety: it’s sporadically sweet-sour-bitter-tangy. The ingredients included chaat masala, kaffir lime, lemongrass, and ended with a lovely sliver of coriander. The Pesto Kebab with tandoori tomato and Parmesan papad ( 395) was my favourite, with just the right amount of spicy aftertaste. It was followed in close second place by the Steamed John Dory ( 610), which is accompanied by four different chutneys, each representing cuisine from a different part of India, adding a distinct flavour to every bite. The Laal Maas ( 650) was cooked to perfection in a red-brown gravy of mathani mirchi.

The Guchchi Naan ( 210), made of seasonal and expensive mushrooms that grow in the hills of north India, is an unusual addition and worth a try for people unfamiliar with it, though Masala Library also offers interesting breads like the sheermal and bakarkhani.

The meal ended with a Ghewar Cheesecake with pistachio dust and almond chikki ( 395) that had an alternating sweet-salty taste, and the Jalebi Caviar ( 410) is so unique that it’s kind of cool.

The not-so-good

There’s nothing striking about the décor (except for the bugs hovering around), though Masala Library is positioned as a fine-dining restaurant. The cave-like distortions on some walls, for example, seem out of place. The cutlery is heavy and awkward to hold.

Most of the vegetarian starters are embellished with chaat masala, so unless one is careful, some tastes may get repetitive. By the time I got the Pinenut Pattice with ragda hummus ( 400) starter, I was tiring of this familiarity. If you can look past the presentation as a mere gimmick, the food comes with some pleasant surprises.

Talk plastic

A meal for two, without alcohol (the bar is not yet functional), including a soup/salad, a starter, two main courses and dessert should cost above 3,000. They also have blind tasting options.

Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, First International Financial Centre, Opp. Sofitel hotel, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). For Reservations, call 66424142.

Arun Janardhan

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Harry’s, Mumbai

Powai’s latest watering hole is a friendly import from Singapore. Both back home on the island city-state and on Hiranandani’s Central Avenue, it’s a lot like mall chains T.G.I. Friday’s or Ruby Tuesday but without the obscenely over-priced menus. The other thing it’s got spot on is its target demographic, listed as PMEBs, or professionals, executives and businessmen, on its website.

The good stuff

Harry’s operates as a café during the day, as a sports bar on game nights and as party central on weekends, complete with thumping commercial tunes courtesy an in-house DJ.

The extensive menu has a sizeable selection of imported beers, spirits and wine, but we recommend you opt for their mixed drinks instead. The potions come in categories like signature, classic, sweet, sour and even spicy with options to bump any cocktail into 1-litre pitchers (starting from 1,299). The Caramel Popcorn Martini ( 229) topped with freshly popped kernels was like a creamy caramel custard in liquid form, the slightly tart and icy Passion & Mint Margarita ( 349) was such a hit that our next round was a pitcher ( 1,599). Even the Cheesy Mary ( 229) was a win with bits of soft, melty cheese flakes floating about in fiery red juice.

There was nothing wrong with the Cheese Chilli French Fries ( 189) and Singapore Chicken Lollypops (a must-order at 189), so our extra large cocktail pitcher led to a second round of Mixed Vegetables Pizza ( 239), nearly as thin and crispy as Indigo Delicatessen’s version, Mushroom Fritters ( 239) stuffed with a spinach and cheese filling, and Harry’s Fish N’ Chips ( 359), mildly spiced batter-fried basa fingers.

The not-so-good

For an after-office hangout, surprisingly, there wasn’t any Kingfisher on tap, just Foster’s, Stella Artois and Hoegaarden. The Drunken Banana Split ( 239) wasn’t boozy enough. It’s better to settle for milder tipples dexterously put together than sloppily made drinks with larger pours. With cookie-cutter interiors that feature extensive wood panelling and cramped seating in red rexine, Harry’s must rely on consistency in its quality to compete with other bars in the neighbourhood.

Talk plastic

Classic and creative cocktails, made with IMFL, are between 229 and 359. Beers range from 859 for a 3-litre pitcher of Foster’s to 699 for a pint of Murphy’s Irish Stout. A meal for two with two drinks, two starters, a main and dessert will cost about 2,500.

Harry’s, Ventura, First floor, B-Wing, Central Avenue, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai. For reservations, call 99697805996.

Prerna Makhija

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