|Photo by TAHIR ALI
|Above: Vinod Kapoor. Below: Chicken Tikka
It was a nice Sunday evening so my wife and I decided to eat out. We were told that Masala Art, an Indian cuisine restaurant in Needham, Mass., was doing something different. So I decided to read its reviews — I must admit the reviews were mixed — while some found the service and food up to their standards, others were a little skeptical. Some found the food less than stellar, but others argued that the ambience and service was unparalleled.
I decided to explore on my own. Getting there was pretty easy and I was able to find a parking spot right in front of the restaurant effortlessly — and that put a smile on my face and set the mood just right for a dining pleasure.
We were greeted with a smile and the owner Vinod Kapoor came out to greet us as he learned that we were guests of Sanchi Mukherjee — the restaurant recently introduced Karaoke night and Sanchi was the main singer on this night. She performed in many shows in India and now she is keeping up the pace as she performs in the New England area. She has also sung live on local radio stations such as Sounds of India.
Masala Art is known for its "Biryani and Dosa." It specializes in Tandoori Kabob, and especially Barra Kabob: "It is marinated for three days," Kapoor proudly asserted. The Kapoor family runs the restaurant, including his wife Shikar, his son Sorabh and his wife Anuradha.
The buffet table was lined up with an array of assorted dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The naan was freshly made. We specifically enjoyed the chickpeas curry "Channa Cholay" and the spicy potato "Achaari Aloo." The saffron embedded in the "long grain" rice complimented the aroma of Basmati rice.
The bartender at the full bar was busy mixing and pouring drinks — the dining room in the back was packed with patrons enjoying an evening out with their family.
Shail Kuba, a dentist by profession, Farooq Ansari, an established businessman, and Khalid Naseem, an attorney, highly recommended the scrumptious appetizers. I looked around and sure enough most everyone was filling their plates with appetizers: chicken on stick, samosas accompanied by a good variety of spicy and sweet chutneys and the mouth watering "Paani Puri."
The "Lamb Jalfrezi" appeared to be made with great care, catering just to the taste of local population. I have to admit, being a meat eater who has spent much time in Pakistan and hailing from a family background of Uttar Pradesh, my taste buds have been seasoned to a rather high standard when it comes to meat delicacies.
I will give five stars out of a possible seven start to the ambience and the entertainment — the karaoke night was a huge success. Sanchi set the mood with her solo performance. She had the house cheering and applauding as she rendered popular Indian songs.
Perhaps the main entertainment value came from audience participation. Patrons joined in the fun, sang and danced along and some even dared to come on the stage and sing a few songs. Christine Crocker mesmerized the customers when she sang opera style — I believe she touched an alto and soprano No. 2. There were others who enchanted the audience with their vocal talents and Shika Kapoor was one of them. Vinod Kapoor also joined in and sang a famous Indian song.
Usha Parekh, Arsh and Anil Mehrotra and other patrons kept the dancing floor busy. Arsh, the host of Indian TV show "Aap Ka Manoranjan" has three Bollywood movies to her credit.
"We were planning to go to the Thai restaurant next door but decided to come here instead," said Usha Parekh. "I am glad we did — the food is good, the appetizers are tasty and of course the unbeatable lively entertainment."
There you have it — if you are looking to spend an evening of dining and entertainment, a desire to discover your hidden vocal talents, to meet exciting people in a classy ambience, hassle-free parking and all that for only $25 or less — then try out Masala Art and tell the Kapoors that Tahir sent you.
Masala Art is located at 990 Great Plain Ave. in Needham, Mass. For more information call (781) 449-4050 or visit www.masala-art.com.