Outdoing a lame lunch with NDG's new gourmet Indian
I needed a burst of flavour for dinner that night, due to my lunch of a crappy bland sandwich from Second Cup. (I know, I know, what did I expect from a place with crappy bland coffee? But I was desperate…) Clearly my evening meal had to make up for such an indignity to the palate.
NDG’s new Indian resto Garam Massala fit the bill. The inside is a promising riot of décor, tastefully put together. Red and green and sparkly gold, with all the glam glitter of Indian knickknacks like brass pots, painted elephants and costumed dollies. Jars of spices displayed as you enter invite contemplation on the meal’s components. The red velvet ornamental fan on the wall seems to say, "For those about to ingest, we salute you."
The menu is suspiciously akin to that of another upscale Indian place in NDG, down to the section titled "from our incredible tandoor." Fair enough – imitation’s the highest form of flattery. Besides, I’m always happy to see the likes of spicy vindaloos, yogurty kormas and vegetable-rich masalas.
To start we were brought pappadams ("India’s answer to the giant potato chip" says the menu – was there a question? I must have dozed off in class…). They were overly greasy, alas, as were the samosas that followed in our appetizer smorg. But the pakoras were exceptionally good, little balls of fried veggie shreds perked up with fennel. We liked the shami kebab, a small beef patty and cinnamony spice, but found the sheek kebab – a tandoor-baked torpedo of beef – a little dry.
To go with our mains, we ordered a selection of breads: sweet puffy nan, thin floppy whole wheat chapati, and fried white flour paratha. The latter caused dissent in the group. I loved its buttery yet dry crispness, others found it too stiff, preferring the more usual soft and flaky kind ("that remind me of croissants," said the discerning Indophile of the group).
A platter of tandoor-cooked meat involved more beef bullets, flavourful (but not tender) lamb, chicken, and a couple of shrimp (tastier than the malodorous burnt shell might bode). These were served with a golden rice pilau, heavy with clove, cinnamon, cardamom, raisins. Don’t forget to add some of the thin yogurt sauce for flavour and moisture.
Their dhal was particularly nutty. The sauce of the lamb tikka masala was a startlingly red, coarse yogurt-and-nut blend, both sour and sweet – Indian cuisine should never be monotone, but always symphonic. Spinach and potato curry was deep green and a touch sweet, the chicken jalfrezi was not the spicy firebomb I’m used to, but mild and onion-filled.
For dessert we decided to buy a tub of vanilla Heath Bar crunch at the Ben and Jerry’s across the street. The Indophile had fresh strawberries at home, best to eat them before the season vanished in an ephemeral puff.
When we left, the outdoor terrasse was full. Although overall it may be somewhat generic gourmet Indian fare, Garam Massala fills a niche on Monkland Avenue. The restaurant certainly helped rectify the dreary taste-bud assault by my mediocre lunch grub.
5601 Monkland; 488-8999
Dinner for two, not including tax or tip: $25-$50