A journey into different regions of India is what Laura Morris experienced at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra.
Masala Library: a world of culinary enchantment. A place where the mystical and the modern seamlessly fuse to create a decadent ensemble of Indian cuisine, offering a theatrical dining journey like no other. It aims to provide diners with an immersive experience, a surprising menu that transports you to the realms of the forest, ocean, fire and mountains. Inspired by the diverse regions of India, each section of the menu tells its own captivating story, bringing together unique flavours and traditions.
On entering, I was immediately captivated by the breathtaking aesthetic: the interior is adorned with shades of copper and white, creating an ambience that exudes opulence. Trunks, laden with a dazzling array of drinks, serve as both functional and ornamental features, a real talking point! Giant glass chandeliers and rows of bells and trinkets transport you into a world of cultural wonder. Bathed in natural light, the restaurant provides a mesmerising view of the Lusail cityscape. While sumptuous soft booths beckon you to unwind and indulge.
After sampling our first mouthful of flavour with an amuse bouche (which, to my mind, is the sign of a food-focused establishment), it was clear that this menu was going to tantalise our taste buds. A simple enough, whipped, sweet yoghurt peppered with paprika and infused with hints of delicate rose was more than a pleasant surprise. We began our gastronomic journey with starters from the forest section, where a plethora of vegetarian delights await. Served on a stiff paper napkin and a bed of darkened corn came the Peri Peri Mango Puchka. Resting like a piece of perfectly mined coal, a puffed puri shell encapsulated a fruity but spicy mango and peri peri centre. Adorned with a gold leaf and mango pearls, it was a sight to behold. We were advised that this dish is best eaten in one bite, and wow, it ignites the senses! Earthy and rich, the crisp shell melts away with ease to release the tang from the cool mango, while the sauce brings heat to the palate.
Next, we dived into the ocean section. First, Salmon Bhel, soft, tandoor-cooked salmon with a sprinkling of Indian wasabi and puffed rice. The salmon in the dish came in two parts: the fine, flaky pieces entwined with the puffed rice and the chunky piece of fillet taking centre stage. Dressed with orange and black caviar spheres, which offer bursts of briny flavour, and crowned with edible flowers and micro herbs, this dish carries you away on a wave of exquisite tastes.
From the same scene, we next tried Vannamei Garlic Prawns. King prawns are bathed in garlic and black pepper and delicately simmered to give a crunchy outer texture. The dish’s name comes from Kerala, where curd rice is a popular summer lunch. The way the creamy blended rice complements the peppery flavours is harmonious. In yet another nod to the ocean, sea asparagus adds depth with a crisp hit of salt. It’s no wonder this is a signature dish.
Moving on to the main event, we prepared to experience the fiery section, a so-called ‘haven’ for spice lovers. Hand Pulled Butter Chicken is the restaurant’s most popular choice. It is uniquely formed: the chicken is cooked whole and marinated in herbs and spices before being pulled apart and tossed in a pan to add crispiness and intensify the flavours. The tomato Makhani gravy is served separately, creating a lighter dish to ignite your senses. Our server mixed the two parts in front of us before spooning a heap to our plates. Sampling this solidified the fact that Masala Library is in a league of its own when it comes to Indian food here in Doha.
We sailed back to the ocean for our final main: Malabar Lobster Moilee, a true testament to culinary craftsmanship. A succulent lobster, bathed in a velvety coconut-based Moilee sauce, took centre stage, its tender meat soaked in the essence of coastal spices. The sauce, a delicate balance of coconut milk and an aromatic medley of curry leaves and mustard seeds, enveloped the lobster in a fragrant embrace. As I indulged, I discovered hidden treasures of sliced green chillies that added a subtle heat. Each bite transported me to the sun-kissed shores of Malabar, where the ocean’s bounty meets the culinary artistry of time-honoured tradition.
We made our final ascent into the mountain section of the menu, where a delightful array of desserts beckoned. The Himalayas, renowned for their towering, snow-capped peaks and alpine glaciers, inspire the decadent dessert selection – our dish of choice: Jalebi Caviar. Caviar crumbs, compacted into a solid form, served with a generous portion of Rabri, a dense cream made from sweet, condensed milk and scattered with pistachios, alongside a golden saffron foam. As I took the first bite, my taste buds were greeted with an initial burst of sweetness that gradually gave way to a subtle tanginess. This golden-hued peak of delight was further enriched by a fragrant infusion of cardamom. Jalebi is a timeless treat that encapsulates the essence of Indian sweets, and this dish delivered like no other.
At Masala Library, every dish on offer is meticulously crafted. The menu, perfected over months, is not just a meal; it’s an extraordinary event that will undoubtedly leave you with unforgettable memories. Dishes are thoughtfully explained, and the chefs engage with diners to share the fascinating origins of each creation (and thoughtfully ensure that the spice levels are tailored to perfection). Presented with artistic flair and meticulously constructed, it is clear to see the efforts put into delivering your meal, which result in every visit being destined as a remarkable journey into the world of exquisite flavours and impeccable hospitality. Masala Library captures the essence of Indian cuisine, enticing both adventurous food enthusiasts and those seeking familiar comforts.