#ELLEExclusive: Library Masala Has a Brand New Menu and Here’s What You Can Expect


Molecular gastronomy is not something new in India. But if you had to trace its introduction, all roads lead to Masala Library, a pioneer of this concept in the country. Jiggs Karla’s restaurant has certainly brought global appeal to traditional Indian cuisine. People were delighted to eat paneer makhani in the form of a big pie or something as simple as dal chawal to be made into arancini. Even a dahi bhalla was served as a semifreddo and tandoori gucchi accompanied by a mint chutney mousse. Even when theater took center stage, flavors were never a compromise. These are the kinds of dishes that have rocked the Indian food scene and continue to do so.

As Library Masala completes its 9th anniversary, it brings a new chef, Rahul Punjabi, on board to lead the team. After working at the three-star Michelin Quay restaurant run by chef Peter Gilmore in Australia, Rahul is ready to take you on an Indian culinary expedition with an all-new menu at the Masala Library that fuses classic Indian flavors with modern techniques while keeping the element of comfort and nostalgia in check.

We had the chance to sit down with the chef and understand what the new menu has in store for you.

What to expect

You will experience artistic Indian dishes well presented but with the same level of comfort it always gives you. “When we opened our doors, we were very focused on molecular gastronomy. What you can expect at this time is hearty food plated with great finesse. We used foreign techniques with Indian cuisine but that really makes sense for the dish. There is also a bit of a playful nature. We’re tweaking the classics in a new way while maintaining what makes the classic classic,” Chef Rahul shares.

The new menu delves into age-old traditional recipes and showcases selections from India’s multi-regional culinary collection in a modern way. You can choose from the fourteen-course, vegetarian or non-vegetarian tasting menu or an a la carte menu. You will also find two Masala library classics kept on the new menu, namely Awadhi Nihari and Jalebi Caviar.

A new start

The first courses are chaats because the chef wants to give you a fresh and light but mouth-watering start to the meal while taking your palate on a textural journey, which you can get from soft and crunchy dishes like Dahi Panna Cotta, Raspberry Chutney, Boondi . Describing the dish, Rahul says, “We take that same vali dahi tadke, put it in a panna cotta, then make a raspberry chutney and add some fresh boondi around it. So you get the sweet, spicy, and tart flavors, but also that soft, crispy texture.

Masala Library
Dahi ka chaat, panna cotta, raspberry chutney, besan boondi

Another preparation is the pani puri course, which Masala Library is known for. But Rahul adds his own twist to it. Your khatta meetha pani is replaced with hibiscus, rose and lemongrass water. The stuffing is made with watermelon, which is processed like a piece of pastrami. “We first brine-dried the watermelon overnight in a bunch of different salts and spices. We then cook it with watermelon juice and sugar. And once it’s cooked, we roast it on hot charcoal, so that you have the impression of having a pastrami with a soft texture associated with the crispiness of the pani puri”, he adds. Accompany this dish with a glass of wine and the turn is play.

The main preparation(s)

As you move on to the other dishes on the menu, you’ll discover a bunch of innovative cooking techniques fused with classic Indian dishes. It is made by working hand in hand with producers to find unique ingredients. The presentation is phenomenal and may look different, but it still maintains familiarity in terms of flavors and showcases some of the traditional dishes you grew up eating.

For example, the Lobster Poshto, Bhoj Patra is a gourmet version of the classic Bengali preparation. It offers Bengali-style lobster with a Kasundi and chic marinade. “We took kimchi leaves and added those same Bengali flavors to it. We then used this barbecued kimchi on the lobster. And we have a bark from a tree called Bhoj patra that sits underneath that we light on a fire at the table for that last drama, but it also invigorates the senses when you eat, you know, something grilled in the tandoori” , explains the chef.

He highly recommends trying the Chicken 65 Croquetta. “We make a chicken keema in Chicken 65 masalas and stuff it into a croquetta,” says Rahul. What you get is a nice mouthfeel from the crispy exterior and soft interior.

Masala Library
Chicken croquette 65, gunpowder aioli, crispy curry leaf

Another must-try dish is the Chicken Tikka, Pearl Barley Khichdi and Foraged Grains aka Bird’s Nest – a tikka dish, which of course is something you would expect at any Indian restaurant. But even with this dish, there is a touch of innovation from flavor to presentation. The chicken tikka is served with a khichdi-risotto mix made with pearl barley and mushrooms. Four different grains (rajgira, jowar, bajra and buckwheat) are cooked in four different ways and used as breadcrumbs on the chicken. The final touch is the nest around the chicken. It is made from Kataifi dough. “When you look at it on the plate, it really looks like a bird. It’s this whole philosophy of what the chicken would have foraged throughout its life for those grains. This is a very striking dish, which is above all delicious. But then it shows what Indian cuisine can be in a newly imagined life while still being very familiar to the palate,” the chef says.

Masala Library
Chicken Tikka, Pearl Barley Kihichdi, Forage Cereals

A slice of childhood

It’s not just traditional Indian dishes that inspired Rahul for the new menu. One of the dishes – the Methi Matar Malai tartlet – is inspired by his grandmother’s recipe and a dish he grew up eating. “We are Sindhis and my nani wanted me to add this dish to the menu to keep Sindhi cuisine alive. Every time we made this home-style concoction, people came back and said it took them back to their childhood too,” Rahul shares.

Masala Library

For the sweet tooth

No meal is complete without dessert. And Masala Library really knows how to give you that perfect sweet ending. Among them all, the highlight is an elevated version of the Shahi Tukda, in which white bread is replaced with sourdough bread to add more character and crunch. And instead of storing it in sugar syrup and letting it saturate with sugar, it is stored as is. Explaining how the dish is prepared, Rahul says, “We made thick milk with almonds and spices which serves as the base with shahi tukda on top. It comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So that contrast between sweet and salty is what we’re looking for. Along with vanilla ice cream, we have a piece of ginger tuile to add that dramatic crack on top and a really good shot of shahi tukda, what dinner wants to live. It is sprinkled with some spices to complement all the flavors.

Masala Library
Sourdough Shahi Tukda, ice cream, ginger tuile

Would you like to book a table and experience the brand new culinary expedition? Find the details below.

Address: Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra – Ground Floor, First International Financial Center (CITI Bank Building), G Block, Opposite Sofitel Hotel, Bandra – Kurla Complex (BKC), Bandra (E), Mumbai – 400051

Contact: 8452900900 / 022-66424142

Opening hours (Monday-Sunday): Lunch (12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.); Dinner (7:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.)

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