Masala Theory has really made the front end of an Indian menu much more fun.
Across the last few years they’ve solidified their offering and honed their brief to present Indian flavours in unexpected ways, fusing Indian and international dining sensibilities.
Poutine Re-Invented ($16.90) takes the Canadian dish to the Subcontinent by drenching French fries in Ruby Murray (British cockney slang for curry) sauce, cheese, garlic and curry aioli. The chips are universally soggy, but textural light and shade is a minor complaint when the dish tastes so good.
You get texture in spades with the Deconstructed Samosa Garbanzo Chaat ($16.90) that sits under a wet avalanche of date-tamarind syrup, mint raita and sweetened yogurt. While the garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are excellent, and all the elements of a samosa are there, I wanted for more spicy warm potato and less pastry to reach the heights achieved by a similar dish I ate at Maharaja’s on Carmen that played upon my memories.
As the brightly coloured room, which reminds me of the grungy Surry Hills share houses I lived in during my University years, fills up around me, it’s clear that these modern reinterpretations of Indian food have found an eager audience.
Group tables made up of mostly women laugh over Curry Bombs ($16.90/8). This Masala Theory signature takes panipuri and makes them more appealing to our meat-focused palates with marinated chook and spoon-over makhani masala sauce. They basically recreate butter chicken, complete with a tingling medium heat, inside your mouth neatly contained within a crisp, one-bite puri shell.
Alcoholic drinks have also come online since my last visit, with a short list of wines all priced under sixty bucks a bottle, plus spirits, beers, and cocktails, including beer cocktails. While some of the cocktails, like Neon ($15) that you place onto the torch of your mobile phone, are more gimmick than good drinking, the Tamarind Punch ($15) is a winner.
Basically a tamarind and chilli-spiked margarita, this spicy sour cocktail is perfect against the smoky Chicken Tikka ($16.90) where four big pieces of juicy marinated bird woo you with good chilli and turmeric bite.
For non-drinkers, or anyone having a night off, the lassi here are really enjoyable. I rate both the Mango Lassi ($7), nicely complemented by a sweet, ripe mango purée topper, and the Popcorn Lassi ($7) that’s buttery and delightful, particularly against spicy food.
You can also opt to have your whole dinner on one plate with the Rajbhog Thali ($55/person). Centred around a kheema pav that has a fragrant lamb mince filling but a dry uninspiring bun, this ring of colour differentiated curries, rice, raita and dessert, also accompanied by a buttery garlic naan, neatly takes care of all your dinner needs.
What I liked about this option was getting a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries for a reasonable price. Eating this platter reminded me that vegetarian curries, like the Indian Green Curry ($22.90) where a green, home-style masala is presented with veggie balls, are usually my favourites. The other standout was the Loyola Curry Prawn ($29.90). The Theory of Dhal ($18.90) was tasty too, though punishingly salty, which encouraged me to dip into the creamy dessert early, just to put my palate back together.
While thali plates are visually appealing, it’s my belief that the weight is in the front of the menu at Masala Theory, with bigger flavours and better cooking, so you’d be better placed to stack your order with entrees.
NOTE: See my initial review of this venue back HERE.
545 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9699 9444