Although I love winter, and suspect I always will, there was something almost magical in opening the door to Masala Bay yesterday evening. In that moment, we were transported from the chill in the air brought by the first snow of the season to a haven of bright walls and rich wall hangings; of inviting aromas and sizzling plates of tandoori whisking past us.
Seating at Masala Bay is perhaps best described as intimate; it’s a smaller space nestled on Regina Street in Uptown Waterloo, just beyond Erb, but it’s possible that proximity to other diners helps to give it the air of a large family gathering: if chaotic at times, warm, welcoming, and friendly. It’s certainly the first time another diner, with whom we hadn’t even spoken during our dinner, pursued the four of us outside with our forgotten leftovers in hand and a great smile.
As I write this the next morning, munching happily on leftover Murg Tikka Makhani (butter chicken) and saag paneer, I’m very glad he did! Even the last bits of the dishes made a lunch for kings (or at least, hungry bloggers with a slightly purple pen.)
The Murg Tandoori was not part of my lunch, as it had disappeared in a flash yesterday evening. It was the first dish to be brought to our table, the chicken sizzling from the tandoori oven, but thoughtfully layered on top of a piece of tin foil, so as to not lose half of it to the heated plate. Splitting the two pieces between the four of us still resulted in sizable portions, and the chicken itself was moist and beautifully spiced.
The rest of our choices followed soon after: two large half-circles of naan, studded generously with garlic and herbs; fragrant jasmine rice, the lamb Pasanda, and Murg Tikka Makhani nestling into the brass tray holder in the middle of our table, lit from below each dish with tealight candles to keep the dishes warm. (It was a device that reminded me at once of a lazy-Susan and a chandelier, but your mileage may vary.)
Lamb Pasanda was a favorite at the table. Though all of the dishes were enjoyable – with a close runner-up’s berth to the butter chicken, which, unlike most of its counterparts I’ve tried, carried a notable amount of heat with each bite – it would likely be what I would seek out next, upon a return trip. I enjoyed the texture and flavour of the lamb, and its thick sauce, flavoured with cashews and saffron, was delicious. Perhaps it’s the lure of a new mix of tastes; most of our choices were dishes we’d tried before in other restaurants, or have tried (with varying degrees of success) to make at home. This was something new.
So we shared thoughts and naan, and spun the dishes around the table until our bellies were full and our trays (almost) empty; caught up in a story of summer shenanigans and mile-long portages through Algonquin, so happily full that we didn’t even think of our leftovers until being reminded of them just outside the door.
There’s something about this new season of cold that makes it the perfect time for comfort food; Masala Bay is a wonderful place to find it.