Masala Indian & Fusion Cuisine

Masala Indian & Fusion Cuisine

The thing about living in Chicago proper is that having a car is a wasted expense. If you are like me, you take public transportation everywhere because of two factors: a want for avoiding snow during the winter and a loathing of construction epidemic when it’s not snowing. Because I rarely drive, I venture out to the suburbs when I go for a spin. So, after driving the obstacle course of potholes, lane closures, and drivers who don’t use their indicators, I managed to venture out to the West Suburbs. And after a while, it was necessary for me address a certain issue: my growling belly. Ah, but there was an Indian restaurant in sight — Masala Indian and Fusion Cuisine at 801 E. Butterfield Road in Lombard. Talk about serendipity.

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

I was in a mode of wanting to deviate just a little, but not completely. Instead of the usual samosas, I ordered aloo papdi chaat. In India, you will find this dished out in some container from any number of street vendors. It is the best. And Masala applies a bit of that tradition to the aloo papdi chaat that they serve. The crispy pastry, chopped potatoes, and onions served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys and yogurt make for an incredible snack. After devouring samosas, papadum, aloo tikka, and pakoras all the time, I had forgotten how much I was a fan of something as simple as chaat — which still has a complex flavour.

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Aloo Papdi Chaat

It is rhetorical for me to say that I had an insatiable appetite. I ordered an entree of chicken tikka masala, an entree of chana masala, basmati rice, and bhatura. With the temperatures having a bit of a nip, one way I knew would give me enough heat to deal with the continuing drop in temperatures outside was to get the dishes spicy. Heat rising from my scalp, a ring of fire around my lips, and my belly welcoming each swallow, it was a scene of sheer enjoyment. It helped that I had a mango lassi to quell a bit of the fire from the spiciness. Not only was the chicken tender in the chicken tikka masala, but the gravy had a hint of makhani to it, and I love makhani. The chana masala had a different taste to it. However, it was still an outstanding dish and I used the bhatura for my eating utensil to gobble the spicy chickpeas in gravy.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chana Masala

Chana Masala

I figured traffic going back towards downtown Chicago would be taxing on my nerves, so I opted to sit and let my food settle. Now, there were a few people who had come into the restaurant and ordered masala chai for take-away. When patrons come to Indian restaurants for chai, it may be a good idea to follow suit. I barely had the cup to my lips when I realized why the chai was so popular. It tasted like what you get down the alleys in India. Well, for those who are daring and will partake of street food and masala chai from street vendors, they know. And if you get a cup of masala Chai from Masala, then you, too, will understand the draw.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai

Masala Indian and Fusion Cuisine is authentically Indian. The exterior can be deceiving, as it looks like the frontispiece for a vacant building, especially if the parking lot is scant with cars. But once you enter, you’re in a Wonderland that caters to palates that enjoy Indian food with all of it flair. They have a buffet daily. I shall return in the near future to partake of the buffet offerings, since you can never go wrong at an Indian buffet. Having eaten from the menu, I will admit that I am indeed a fan of Masala. As to the fusion aspect of their menu, that may be something given in the name for an attraction because this restaurant screams authenticity in some of the best Indian dining. And it begs you to make the drive out to Lombard to find out for yourself the flavour of love.

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Ali Baba and Gino at Baba’s Village

Baba's Village

When you have gone to India and eaten at any restaurant, home, or down some alley, the standard for preparation of Indian food is pretty much ingrained. You might not know the exact amount of herbs and spices that each dish should have, but you know when the food is so good that talking to someone while you are eating is the last thing you want to do. And when you hear people say that cab drivers frequent a certain Indian eatery, you think authenticity. You get slightly hyper, ready to gnash away at something spicy, hungry like the wolf.

Hmm.

Samosa

Samosa

Last year my colleagues took me to a nearby Indian hole-in-the-wall at 310A S. Canal Street named Baba’s Village. As far as quick goes, it fits the bill. At the time, there was a constant ebb and tide of suits, ties, and wanderers off some Amtrak train from the neighbouring Union Station. It looked like it had all the trappings of the Indian spots that have endeared themselves to my appetite. And without extra charge, you got a bit of attitude with your order. I never bothered to return because the personnel atmosphere had ruined the meal, which was so Americanized that it was practically American food being passed off as Indian food.

I returned recently after work when there was no crowd and noticed a change. Granted the Indian guy at the cash registered barely looked at me while I was placing my order, that changed with a little bit of Hindi that I let sprang forth. I have a habit of unconsciously letting people know that I’m not as typical as I look. So, he was rather engaging thereafter, and it may have been the few short sentences of Hindi that resulted in my food being – and I must apologize for the blatant continuation of my sentence – so DAMN DELICIOUS.

Chana Bhatura

Chana Bhatura

Veggie samosa. Chana bhatura.

The samosa was spicy and almost the size of a fist. Considering my hands are extra large, I will say that the samosa was about the size of a large fist. It came hot and flaky, not cold or lukewarm and chewy. That was a big change from what I remember during the lunch order I had last year, in which the samosa had the texture of toast. Where there was indeed a HUGE improvement was with the chana bhatura. I am a fan of choley and bhatura. The bhatura was certainly not a let-down. The chana was still very much like seasoned chickpeas in a spicy stew gravy, but there was flavour this time. I have no idea what the concoction was that I had last year, but its bland-as-a-rice-cake flavour then was nothing like the pop that I had during this recent visit. I actually finished everything and when I say everything I mean I took the last pieces of bhatura and went around the bowl to sop the last bit of gravy.

It may have been my appetite. It may have been that the cook had more time to prepare dishes without the rush of the lunch crowd. Whatever it was, this most recent visit was an indication that Baba’s Village may be worth avoiding during noon and waiting until after 5:00 PM when everyone is rushing home or to some watering hole to turn up some beers. The prices aren’t all that expensive. I can’t speak to any dishes other than the chana bhatura and the sampling of some “You call that tender?” butter chicken that a fellow colleague had last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the butter chicken doesn’t have a wow factor after 5:00 PM. I can’t say. But maybe during your visit, you can let me know thereafter.

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