Masala Palace offers Indian food for the steely and the delicate-stomached alike
Fragrant incense welcomes customers walking down the stairs into Masala Palace, lifting the spirits far from the hurly-burly of Queen Mary Street’s traffic. The setup is upscale-Indian plush. Comfy chairs, carpets and red-and-gold cloth panels in frames on the wall warm up the space. Tabla music puts you in a subcontinent mindset.
The menu is conveniently divided into heat levels. I’ve always believed that differently spiced curries have their optimum hotness, although some restaurant owners plead otherwise.
The mild ones include yogurty korma and fruity pasanda or Kashmir, then there are medium hots like the peppery dupiaza or spinachy saag gosht, and then all the way up to the very hot vindaloo or even more scorching Bangalore phal. You can choose your meat for each curry treatment, usually chicken, beef or lamb.
We started traditionally with rather doughy samosas and more pleasing piazzi, a.k.a. onion bhaji, that were nicely fluffy on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside. The deep-fried balls of chickpea flour and onion went well with the thin, fruity chutney.
Lured by the promise of mango chunks and needing a soft-toned curry for the delicate-stomached among us, we picked mango chicken. It was sweet and one-dimensional and, like pineapple on pizza, you have to be into it, one friend commented.
The steely stomached of us wanted a curry that raged. The Bangalore phal with ginger and lemon beckoned with its green chilis. And it was, indeed, fiery hot. I’m out of practice, so my namby-pamby tastebuds had a hard time discerning the subtleties, but we found the muttony lamb stood up perfectly to the rich, murky sauce.
The achar gosht curry, with chicken, was intriguingly sour thanks to the main ingredient of Indian pickles and was my favourite of the bunch.
Sides weren’t as wowing, but we liked the methi aloo, tender potato chunks with fenugreek leaves. Nan and rice were perfectly acceptable, but the stuffed paratha bread was a more entertaining bread disc fat with potato and peas. All were washed down with Cobra beer, a dark brew.
Masala Palace is a solid choice in the neighbourhood, which somehow lacks Indian restaurants despite being so multi-culti. We all thoroughly appreciated the lack of greasiness, and I suspect keener ordering would have resulted in an even more completely cohesive meal.
4961-D Queen Mary Road, 514-731-5277
Meal for two: $40-$50