The menu promised a culinary experience that would help us “rediscover our inner self,” and we wondered if we’d strolled into the Masala Spa by mistake. Yet the merits of this Indian newcomer are such that there will be plenty of soul searching, if not among the diners, then among Shanghai’s other Indian venues.
First things first: the service at this restaurant was the best we’d enjoyed in a long time. They take your order when you’re actually ready; they refill your bowl of pre-dinner nibbles without you having to ask; they gave us our dal for free because it arrived a couple of minutes later than the rest of the food; they threw in dessert; and the staff, from the manager down to the waitress, were smart, polite, attentive and welcoming. It’s so simple to do, so refreshing to experience, and so lamentably rare in Shanghai.
Just as importantly, Masala Art more than matches the food at sister restaurant Patiala Pearl, a place that was once the best Indian in town, while transferring Patiala’s culinary flair into a brighter and more accessible space. Even so, the décor is this restaurant’s least impressive quality – it’s rather spare and unremarkable, but clean and with a few attractive touches.
But then you won’t spend much time looking away from your plate. Tandoori chicken tikka was smoky and tender, the shrimp jhinga masala delicious, and the dal patiala fry, served in individual pots and eaten separately, was also excellent. Raj kofta, dumplings of spinach, cottage cheese and mushrooms served in a buttery sauce, impressed too – great for mopping up with a fresh, piping hot naan. Shanghai’s Indian food has come a long way in the last year or two; and Masala Art is up there with the best.