A loyal fan pointed out that I haven’t reviewed any Indian restaurants yet. I purposefully avoided doing so because I can get similar food at home for free; there’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal. I spotted Masala Times recently and was attracted by the popularity it had among NYU students. Masala Times goes above and beyond to create a Bollywood-movie theme, nicknaming menu items after film subjects and decorating the chairs with faces of actors. I went up and asked for the Chicken Box ($9.95) and got a Mango Lassi to drink ($3).
The chicken vindaloo arrived pasted with a bitterly spicy masala. The popular notion about Indian food is that it’s often spiced heavily and thickly, which is true. However, this is less about creating a delicious meal than it is about masking sub-par meat. The chicken here was highly overcooked, and most likely reheated after sitting out for a while. The rice had the same problem. Already I remembered the second reason I avoid Indian restaurants. Cheap Indian eateries care very little about freshness and delicacy, preferring instead to throw more masala into the mix. The kitchens are often unclean and negligent because of serious penny-pinching by the owners.
The roti tasted like a folded stack of cold paper. By now it was obvious that nothing was made within the last four hours. I’ve eaten many cold rotis in my life (at home), but never would have expected to pay for one. There was an overabundance of red onions, and the daal was miserably bitter. Daal can vary by region, but the blend of flavors should never hit such a pungent note.
The Mango Lassi was made in-house, so I had to try it. If you’ve never had mango lassi before, it’s a mix of yogurt, water, and mango pulp. You can probably imagine that it’s quite thick, and probably not recommended for those of you who regularly wash down spicy flavors during a meal. It’s simple to make, and I was relieved they didn’t mess it up. The Limca bottle ($3) on the side is a lemon-lime drink that’s sold in India by Coca-Cola. It tasted a lot like a fizzy lychee drink, so it’s definitely worth trying. That was probably the only part of the entire meal I enjoyed.
Try not to fall for the gimmicky decorations and Bollywood music bouncing off the walls. If you live in Greenwich Village and are craving Indian food, there are quite a number of places that are within the same price range. I wonder if Masala Times would be any good if they spent as much time on the food as they did on marketing and branding. Two thumbs down.