We grew up hearing the name of Jiggs Kalra as India’s first celebrated gourmet who knew food as much or more than chefs in the finest of hotels he reviewed, tasted and advised. Off late, Kalra is not in circulation but his son has made a profession out of what was largely his father’s passion. Zorawar Kalra has made Massive Restaurants as one of most successful stand-alone restaurant chain in the country. I have been hearing about Masala Library from my friends in Mumbai. There were great reviews and quite a lot of appreciation. People who met me were thoroughly impressed with their dinner and that set up my high expectations from this brand. Media also has been very charitable to Masala Library which in Delhi is known as Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra. Their deconstructed food, their location and their tasting menu get talked about somewhere and everywhere every now and then.
Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra is in the very heart of the city and on one of the most storied roads of New Delhi. It is next to Meridien Hotel, bang on Janpath. Definitely, when it comes to location, this would be one of the top 100 best located stand-alone restaurants in the world. You just don’t need an address to reach here.
No 24-hour place and No breakfast. They open only for lunch and dinner, all 7 days of the week, between 12 Noon to 2.30 PM and between 7.00 PM to 1.00 AM.
Ultramodern and new-age eatery with a huge central light console and a staircase accessible wine cellar, white table cloths and solid cutlery make you feel that you are at a luxury dining place. I didn’t find seats very comfortable, especially for a restaurant which expects you to sit for 3 hours and just eat food. Acoustics are good and the fact that they don’t permit children below 15 years for dinner makes this place work. Remember, this is no large restaurant and the place doesn’t encourage walk-ins and bookings sometime run as much as a week in advance.
When it comes to service, Masala Library can surely do with lesser number of people and provide better service. They have far too many wait staff and certainly none of them is running around and ensuring a good service. Few of wait staff do require English speaking courses, if they need to adhere to the restaurants policy of “Our staff only speaks in English”. For this highly talked about restaurant, service was below expectations.
Very expensive when you pay in Rupees and expensive even when you convert them to Dollars. Dinner for 3 was Rs. 11,500 with 2 non-alcoholic beverages, 1 bottle of water and tasting menu for all three.
They have a tasting menu which requires at-least 15 minutes to comprehend and understand. The menu consists of 19 bite-size individual dishes brought on your table, so it is at-least 19 times that you interact with the wait staff and listen to their commentary about the food being served to you in totally lost English accent. They claim to be a modern Indian fusion eatery, hence all bite size meals have their own in-house take on regular fare. Over 40 different items came to our table. More than half were just brilliant, most from the other half were between good and excellent but there were 4 which deserved no place on the table. These 4 essentially diluted some of the exceptionally beautiful and well curated experience. Their de-constructed samosa was a huge hit with all 3 on the table. Mushroom Chai which was no Chai but a soup served in kettle and poured in cups was an interesting innovation. Black cod Khichri was just about average but their quail was mind blowing, very fresh, very tender and flavor-full. Tiny little Vada with a transparent plastic tube which had Rasam was something you can keep on having for half an hour or so. Lack of Paneer dishes was really felt as one person on the table was vegetarian. I haven’t been to a restaurant in Delhi which offers a full menu for vegetarians and has nothing in Paneer. Desserts were served together, 3 at a time. Ashen Kulfi stood out and so did Jalebi Caviar. Of course, Jalebi Caviar did not have any caviar in it and it was Jalebi which was made to look like golden Caviar. Belgian chocolate ganache was a great finale.
Nearby tourist attractions:
With India Gate to your right & Connaught Place to your left, you have enough to do around this place, before and after meal. I recommend leaving your car in Parliament Street parking and walking down to this place to build an appetite. It is a clean garbage free European style walk. Post dinner, you can burn freshly minted calories by walking back to the parking after having a look at the India Gate and celebration of India at its lawns.