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dr.com $20 Dinner at Masala Art


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Would anybody be interested in a $20 dinner at Masala Art next week? I walk by it just about every day, and I've wanted to try it since it opened, but I think the menu would best be explored with a large group. Plus it's been way too long since the last $20 Tuesday (which, oddly enough, was also Indian). I'm interested to see how Masala Art might compare to that feast, especially given some of the more unique items on the menu.

Since I have work on Tuesday nights, it would be more like a $20 Wednesday (Dec. 9th), at 7 PM. Kind of short notice, but if anybody's interested, I'd be happy to get it organized.

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Would anybody be interested in a $20 dinner at Masala Art next week? I walk by it just about every day, and I've wanted to try it since it opened, but I think the menu would best be explored with a large group. Plus it's been way too long since the last $20 Tuesday (which, oddly enough, was also Indian). I'm interested to see how Masala Art might compare to that feast, especially given some of the more unique items on the menu.

Since I have work on Tuesday nights, it would be more like a $20 Wednesday (Dec. 9th), at 7 PM. Kind of short notice, but if anybody's interested, I'd be happy to get it organized.

I'd be intersted any evening this week except Wednesday. How about Thursday?

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Hopefully we can pin down a date for a dinner at Masala Art a few weeks from now, as I'm going to be back home in NJ from the 14th until January 3rd. Perhaps the Thursday of the week I come back (January 7th) would work? Anyone whose interested, post away, and I'll be happy to keep track and organize the dinner itself if a sizable group signs up.

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Hopefully we can pin down a date for a dinner at Masala Art a few weeks from now, as I'm going to be back home in NJ from the 14th until January 3rd. Perhaps the Thursday of the week I come back (January 7th) would work? Anyone whose interested, post away, and I'll be happy to keep track and organize the dinner itself if a sizable group signs up.

If it entices anyone, I went to Masala Art a couple weeks ago, and have been negligent in not posting about it. There is no other restaurant like it in the DC area (and I'll explain why in a subsequent post). Go! Trust me.

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Hopefully we can pin down a date for a dinner at Masala Art a few weeks from now, as I'm going to be back home in NJ from the 14th until January 3rd. Perhaps the Thursday of the week I come back (January 7th) would work? Anyone whose interested, post away, and I'll be happy to keep track and organize the dinner itself if a sizable group signs up.

January 7 would be keen. And I might be +1, if I can convince my sister to come out and play on her birthday (same day).

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Hopefully we can pin down a date for a dinner at Masala Art a few weeks from now, as I'm going to be back home in NJ from the 14th until January 3rd. Perhaps the Thursday of the week I come back (January 7th) would work? Anyone whose interested, post away, and I'll be happy to keep track and organize the dinner itself if a sizable group signs up.

Count me in, and maybe add my S.O. Would love to know when it is getting confirmed for. All the support for the people who worked with me and have their own enterprise going now.

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Count me in, as well. And maybe my wife as well. We had a meal at Masala Art last night and it was superb. I don't have the menu in front of me, so I can't get into some of the dishes we tried....but there is one thing you must have if you go. The rock salt and cilantro naan is a perfect compliment to the butter chicken, which was as good a version as I've tasted. There are so many unique dishes to try, so a group would be a good way to do some sharing.

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Glad to see so many people are interested. I know there're a ton of dishes on the menu that I'm eager to try, so I'd love to get an army together for the purposes of trying as many dishes as possible. Seems like January 7th works for a lot of people, so that'll be the official date, barring natural disaster or similarly unforseen occurences. 7 PM is the usual time, so let's stick with that.

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Figured I'd break this off from the Twenty Dollar Tuesday thread, as it isn't actually on a Tuesday, and may attract those who don't normally check that thread, and because enough people have signed up that we can be certain it'll actually take place. So...

Thursday, January 7th, 7PM, Masala Art (Indian), 4441-B Wisconsin Ave NW (Tenleytown Metro),DC

menu, DR.com topic

KMango(+1?)

Koolpaw

Sudhir Seth (+1?)

JeffC (+1?)

marketfan (+1)

elinw

Scott Johnston

Keep the sign ups coming, I want us to be able to tear through as much of that menu as possible.

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Updated List:

KMango(+1?)

Koolpaw

Sudhir Seth (+1?)

JeffC (+1)

marketfan (+1)

elinw

Scott Johnston

Legant

ol_ironstomach (+1)

collije

Alok

Here's a link to the menu again. If you happen to start exploring, and you see any items that you already know you want to try, throw them up here or shoot me a PM. Also, anybody with questionable +1s, try to confirm so that we can close in on a final count in the next few days.

See you all Thursday.

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Updated List:

KMango

Koolpaw

Sudhir Seth (+1)

marketfan (+1)

elinw

Scott Johnston

Legant

ol_ironstomach

collije (+1)

Alok

bbhasin (+1)

catharine (+1)

eroica (+1)

Our reservation is set for 7 PM, but if anybody would still like to join in, post away - I'll be reconfirming with the restaurant tomorrow to finalize the headcount. Also, I intend to get there a bit early (6:30 or so) to scope out the bar, and company is more than welcome.

Sorry for those of you who had to drop out (JeffC, some +1s), but I'm sure there'll be a huge post on all the food for you to live vicariously through.

Looking forward to a great meal with new and familiar faces alike. See you all tomorrow.

Gennaro

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If it entices anyone, I went to Masala Art a couple weeks ago, and have been negligent in not posting about it. There is no other restaurant like it in the DC area (and I'll explain why in a subsequent post). Go! Trust me.

I never did explain why, and shame on me. In short:

1) Fascinating, regional Indian dishes not found elsewhere in the area 2) Great cooking 3) Very inexpensive 4) In a strip mall, but actually in DC proper.

At its price-point, there's no other Indian restaurant like this in the DC area. A true neighborhood restaurant worthy of a crosstown journey. This restaurant adds, in a big way, to the richness and diversity of our area's cuisine. Love it!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Thanks to everybody for coming to tonight's dinner, and thanks again to Atul and the staff at Masala Art for providing such a great meal. So many different flavors, many of which were completely new to me, as I'd never seen them on other Indian menus in the area. I'll definitely be back sooner or later with a smaller group so as to better hone in on a few dishes in particular and tease out their intricacies in a way that wasn't possible with just the bite or two tonight's dinner provided.

Now for the rundown of what we had. It was a lot of food, and I know that I didn't get to taste a few of the dishes that we ordered because there were just so many plates flying everywhere, so I'll rely on others to fill in the blanks:

Appetizers

Pani Poori ($3.95): Puffed hollows stuffed with diced potatoes and chickpeas, topped with chutneys - eaten whole in one bite.

I'd never tried these before, and they were truly a bite of pure deliciousness; nice and crisp on the outside, and the filling was packed with flavors that left a lingering heat. The spiced water poured over top not only adjusted the texture but also carried the flavors to one's taste buds much more effectively than if they had been left dry.

Dahi Bhalle ($4.25): Velvety lentil dumplings in yoghurt sauce.

Another new dish for me. The dumplings themselves had a really nice texture - extremely smooth and soft, but they didn't have much flavor. The sauce (a blend of cool yogurt and I believe tamarind) took care of providing flavor. It was relatively sweet, a nice contrast to all of the spiciness my mouth wound up dealing with, and the clash of warm and cool was really interesting.

Sarson wali Gobhi ($4.25): Floret of tandoori cauliflower enveloped in rich coating of spices flavored with mustard seeds.

A good dish, but not one of my favorites. Because of the color alone, all I could think of when I looked at it was cheese - and the texture of the thick, mustard seed laced sauce was actually reminiscent of this, but the flavors definitely were not. Compared to the other, more assertively flavored dishes we tried, this one was just a little on the bland side for me.

Nukti Kabab on Khastha Roti ($5.25):

Small pieces of boneless baby lamb served on small crisp Indian bread. I'm fairly certain that this was the dish Atul tacked this onto the menu that we came up with, and I'm really glad he did. This was my favorite of the appetizers: the lamb was extremely tender, a perfect contrast to the crispy bread beneath, and the sauce coating it had the perfect amount of heat that lingered for a longtime.

Makai aur Mattar on Methi Missi ($4.25): Corn and green peas tossed with spice and served on small methi bread.

Looked delicious, but I didn't get to taste it - anybody else want to offer a verdict?

Tandoori Specialties

Ajwaini Jumbo Prawns ($19.95): Jumbo prawns in saffron marinade and carom seeds.

Wow, these shrimp were good. And they were giant. They came out tinted the usual shade of angry red that everything from the Tandoor is, and I was immediately glad that somebody had added them to our list. The flavor wasn't revolutionary, but it was truly satisfying. It was clear that the shrimp were of high quality, and the marinade complemented their inherent flavor well. They were served with the same Dal that accompanied the Gaulati kabab, and while I think that the Dal didn't actually work well with the shrimp, it was very tasty both on its own and with bread/rice.

Tawa Selection

Karwari Mushroom ($10.50): Mushroom coated with rice flour and South Indian blend of spices.

I think that his was the dish of mushrooms that got passed to me, though I wasn't expecting them to be in a sauce, so those mushrooms may have been something else (a vegetarian plate). If this was what I ate, the mushrooms were tasty, but not particularly memorable in light of the other dishes.

Gaulati kabab with Ulta Tawa Parantha ($12.95): An exotic lamb kabab from kitchen of Nizam, served with a small tawa bread.

Another unique dish - Sudhir suggested ordering it, as he said that it was a specialty of the chef. Certainly interesting, and a good contrast to all of the wetter/sauced dishes. The lamb patties on their own were slightly dry, but had a nice flavor; adding the Dal, however, formed a bite that was far greater than the sum of its parts.

Non Vegetarian Specialties

Awadhi Dum ke Murg ($12.95): Specialty from Avadh - chicken cooked in rich brown cashew nut and saffron gravy.

I really loved this, and wished I could have eaten the entire portion after taking my first bite. Normally I'm not a big fan of the creamier Indian dishes, but this had a great balance between the nuttiness of the cashew (or was it actually almond? Sudhir suggested it might be, and that seems more in line with what my taste buds were picking up), the saffron, and the cream. Most importantly, the sauce matched perfectly with the chicken; this dish was one of the rare cases where mopping up the sauce with bread wasn't nearly as satisfying as eating a bite of the chicken and sauce together. One of the night's highlights for me, for sure.

Nariyal aur Pudina Fish Curry ($15.50): Fillet of sole cooked in a coconut and mint gravy.

I am not a big fan of mint, but I really enjoyed this. It cut through the richer, heavier flavors of the lamb chops and other dishes, and was just really refreshing. And the mint wasn't overpowering - I could actually tell that I was eating fish.

Adraki Lamb Chops ($13.45): Ginger flavored, cumin marinated, juicy lamb chops done to perfection in a delicious sauce.

I wasn't expecting much from lamb chops, but the menu doesn't lie when it says "delicious sauce." I didn't particularly pick up on the ginger, but I did taste a blend of the lambs juices and the cumin in the sauce. I'm really not sure at all about what else was in there;.All I know was that it attracted my nan like a magnet. I don't eat lamb very frequently, but the meat itself seemed well prepared, juicy and tender thanks to being left on the bone (but still no match for the lamb appetizer in my book).

Aloo Anardana ($8.95): Potatoes with dried pomegranate seeds.

Was this our potato dish? I think so, since I don't see any others on the menu. I imagine that this was a good dish, and if I'd been eating it in the context of fewer plates, it might have stood out. But eating so many dishes, only the very best were able to stand out, and this one was just not super flavorful. However, I should note that the potatoes were nicely cooked - not all mushy as can sometimes happen.

Lassoni Corn Palak ($8.50): Creamy spinach with corn tempered with garlic.

Only got a bite, and wish I had gotten more. I think this dish is pretty much a classic, as I've seen it before, so while not particularly unique, it was very good. The spinach was creamy in texture, but not creamy in flavor (if that makes sense), so all you tasted was the freshness of the spinach and the sweetness of the bits of corn scattered throughout. I'd definitely order a side of this next time.

Baingan Mirch ka Salan ($9.25): A delicacy from south of India - eggplant & pepper in sesame seed sauce.

I was looking forward to this dish, but I don't think it made its way down to my side of the table. Can anyone else offer opinions?

Pyazi Kadhi Pakodi ($8.75): Tempered yoghurt curry with batter fried onion.

Another dish I'd been anticipating, but if it came to the table, I never saw it. Seems like a unique offering though, so I would definitely order it on my next visit. Did anybody get to see/eat it?

Tandoori Malai Paneer with Tamater Cut ($10.95): Velvety cottage cheese cubes in a tangy tomato sauce.

This was a great dish that got somewhat ignored (which meant I got a few extra bites). I think that far too often people visiting Indian restaurants lean toward the dishes that rely on a creamy tomato sauce (Makhani/Masala) - flavor combinations that satisfy in a very one note way. It almost feels like a cop out when I eat them, sort of like "well, this is full of cream and delicious, duh". Instead, the paneer here was sauced with a "tangy" tomato sauce that had a whole lot more complexity and punch than the rounder, smooth flavor of cream. I was very glad Atul suggested it.

Breads

We ordered a variety of breads - Warki Parantha, Khasta roti, Cheese Kulcha, and Rock Salt & Cilantro Nan - ($2.95 each, except for the Kulcha at #3.25) if I'm remembering correctly. To be honest, none really stood out to me, maybe because my taste buds were being assaulted by too many flavors. So many great things have been said about the Rock Salt & Cilantro Nan, but it just didn't taste particularly unique to me - I picked up on neither salt nor cilantro. Still, all the breads were fresh, and had a good texture, and served as effective vehicles for sauce.

Accompaniments

Papaddum ($1.00): Sent out by Atul, valued more by me for the interesting discussion it inspired (Sudhir explained how certain brands are made by women in India, and how the rolling of the dough is so hard that it is alluded to in Indian language whenever referring to something particularly difficult). While the accompanying sauces (a creamy mint sauce and tamarind, I think) were good, I found the papaddum had a far more interesting flavor when eaten on its own, unmasked.

Onion Salad ($1.25): I think this was the pickled onions we had, which were nice and refreshing in the context of everything else.

Wow. Hopefully I didn't miss anything. I'm having flashbacks to writing up the post for Sichuan Pavilion now. The pictures I took with my iphone didn't come out at all, so anybody wishing for visuals will just have to go order the food themselves and enjoy the flavors as well.

Once again, thanks to everybody for coming, and to Masala Art for providing all of the great food. It was great to catch up a bit with people I hadn't seen for months in some cases, and to meet new people as well.

Sorry to those of you who couldn't make it - hopefully next time. Finally organizing an event was definitely a learning experience, and I look forward to doing it again, hopefully with slightly better organization and planning the second time around.

Gennaro

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Thanks Gennaro for coordinating tonite's dinner, I am glad that I could get out of my two stores to enjoy the hospitality of Atul and the great cooking of Chef Surinder. You have done a pretty good synopsis of the dinner spread here. Guess one would need to make another trip to Masala Art to sample the Kadhi and the Baghare Baingan which did not get to us. For now I am still euphoric after a GREAT dinner in lively company.

Cheers

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Gennaro, I remain immensely grateful for last night's event. It gave me a valued excuse to explore--I rarely make it out to that part of DC. A richly textured parade of flavors and sensations, I could barely keep up with everything my brain was processing. One of my favorite quotes from the night was Sudhir's "yes, this is a full frontal assault on your taste buds." Attack me like that any day!

Outrageously delicious food, convivial company with fascinating conversations, a heck of a bargain for everything we sampled, a wildly successful evening.

And no one set their bill on fire, unlike that other table.

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Thank you, Gennaro, both for organizing a great event and the excellent write up afterwards.

I WAS disappointed with the breads. I have had them at lunch and they were wonderful but they were not memorable last night. And thank you, Sudhir, for all the fascinating information about Indian dishes.

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Gaulati kabab with Ulta Tawa Parantha ($12.95): An exotic lamb kabab from kitchen of Nizam, served with a small tawa bread.

Another unique dish - Sudhir suggested ordering it, as he said that it was a specialty of the chef. Certainly interesting, and a good contrast to all of the wetter/sauced dishes. The lamb patties on their own were slightly dry, but had a nice flavor; adding the Dal, however, formed a bite that was far greater than the sum of its parts.

A bit of info about Ulta Tawa. Most people (here) know that a Tawa is a griddle (click here for an example), but "Ulta" (and this is my own, non-Googled, unverified theory) may have the same etymology as "Ultra," meaning "beyond" or "extreme." Something (in this case a Parantha) that is Ulta Tawa'd has the griddle placed on top, and is flattened in the process. I may be wrong about the etymology, but that's how I remember it, anyway. X-treme Tawa-ing, The Movie.

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Guess one would need to make another trip to Masala Art to sample the Kadhi and the Baghare Baingan which did not get to us.

Curious. I was the one who added the Baingan to the communal list, and it didn't make it to our table either...I'd assumed they might have dropped all of it at your table. What we did have was very good to excellent, with a wonderful combination of textures and flavors. A few of the dishes were unexpectedly dominated by one flavor or another - the sharpness of the mustard sauce on the cauliflower was mentioned a lot - but generally the sauces were complex and balanced. The dishes with saag posed some initial identification challenges, as identical-looking spinach blanketed everything else, but that's not too surprising.

I was particularly happy with the pani poori (bbhasin helpfully instructed our end of the table to fill the poori with the pani through the top vent, and not just drizzle it around) and the warki paratha, which had a nice crispness to the outer layers.

A good time was had by all, even though the open menu format led to completely blowing through the cost target, and there were some issues with collecting the final drinks tab. Thanks for coordinating, GennaroE!

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Some people at the 'other table', namely me, did not have a clue as to how this was going to work out, the half price bottles of wine were a steal, the cocktails and the extra pani poori were not and everything adds up. Ended up with 90 for two which was still quite reasonable for the spread.

My personal favorite was the warki paratha, the galauti kabab and the mushrooms. The fish curry was my wife's fave.

Thank you Gennaro for organising this, so glad this was on thursday ( am vegetarian on tuesdays).

Have to back for the eggplant now which never made it to our table.

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A bit of info about Ulta Tawa. Most people (here) know that a Tawa is a griddle (click here for an example), but "Ulta" (and this is my own, non-Googled, unverified theory) may have the same etymology as "Ultra," meaning "beyond" or "extreme." Something (in this case a Parantha) that is Ulta Tawa'd has the griddle placed on top, and is flattened in the process. I may be wrong about the etymology, but that's how I remember it, anyway. X-treme Tawa-ing, The Movie.

Hi Don,

"ULTA", literally translates as "opposite", and in this case means "UPSIDE DOWN". The normal tawa (an iron griddle, round with a handle) has a depression in the center. If you flip it and if it is large enough one can make a Roomali Roti (bread as thin as a handkerchief) on it, which is made by flipping it hand over hand & then tossed in the air just like Pizza. Well, as usual I digress from the main topic at hand. Basically the Paratha must have been cooked on an Upside down Tawa. It is used in the city of Lucknow the place where Avadhi cuisine flourished. From a practical point I do not see much advantage to using a convex surface as any oil applied to the bread would eventually drip from the sides. So long as the Tawa is thick enough it should do the job of cooking the breads. For Roomali Roti you do need something akin to a thick wok which can be turned upside down. Googling got me the following recipe for Ulta Tawa Paratha and for the Roomali Tawa picture.

Happy Cooking

ULTA TAWA KA PARATHA

Ingredients

1 kg refined flour, 100 gm ghee, 150 gm semolina, 2 gm saffron, 250 ml milk, 25 gm sugar, 10 gm salt.

Method

Soak semolina and saffron in milk for half hour.

Sieve flour and salt together. Make a well in the centre and add sugar, semolina and saffron infused milk. Knead into dough. Slowly add ghee and knead into hard dough.

Make small, even balls of approximately 40 g each and roll on a greased surface. Now crimp the rolled sheet and curl it into a roll and set aside for 20 minutes. Now roll the curled dough against crimping.

On an Lucknowi ulta tawa or a regular tawa apply ghee or oil and heat it on a medium flame and cook the parathas on it.

post-243-126299550757_thumb.jpg

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[i don't know what the Indo root is but "ulta" and "ultra" (Latin, from "ulter," whence we get "ultimate" and "ulterior") do all seem to have related meanings of "other," "extreme," "opposite" -- in Hindi, "ulta" in a phrase signifies left-handedness (Latin: sinister, sinestra ... and yes, whence we get the meaning of "sinister" that relates to "evil" -- although I'm betting that's remedial knowledge for the folks on this site :angry:).

So the whole "opposite"/"other"-ness going on here would seem a fortunate coincidence at the very least.

Don -- delete, not relevant. Just wanted to put that damn degree to use.]

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