Monday, 8 November 2010

Masala Zone review - Islington Indian cuisine in full spice mode


Address: 80 Upper Street, London N1 0NU
Tel: 020 7359 3399
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ****
Service: ***
Ambience: **
I’ve got this unwavering belief about food and that is that the enjoyment of it depends on a great deal other than the amount of care put into preparing it, the freshness of the ingredients and even the pedigree of the chef preparing it.

I’m sure you can attest to how a fantastic dinner can be spoilt by a rude waiter, a noisy toddler bawling in the next table or simply the fact that you just had a bad day. That’s why I’m always a bit sceptical when I read about reviews that are a tad extreme. Morgan M is a case in point. We left the one Michelin star restaurant feeling more than disappointed at the sorbet theme meal.

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That said, it often helps when you don’t actually know much about the cuisine itself. That way, you wouldn’t have any preconception of how the food should be prepared and focus on whether the dish set in front of you actually tastes good. People have been telling me that Giraffe’s Malaysian laksa taste good (“It is the best laksa I’ve ever tasted in my life,” the person who has never set foot in Southeast Asia told me). Well, I guess my sole issue with Giraffe’s laksa is that it is served with green curry, which doesn’t quite taste like green curry. Anyway, just in case you are wondering, the point I’m trying to make here is that so long that you like a particular restaurant or dish, don’t let the purists get to you. But just in case, check out the what the purist recommends as well.

I know as much about Indian food as I know about Russian cuisine. Well, other than the roti prata that I have back home, I am not really into Indian food. In fact, I have more Indian food in London for the past three years than I have all my life back home (not counting the pratas of course). I made no secret that I like Gufaa and Feanor was aghast when he knew about that. He pointed me to Masala Zone, a couple of doors down Islington Upper Street.

Now, I’m a fan of Masala Zone and am not ashamed to flaunt it.

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One thing about coming from Singapore is that I tend to equate spiciness with chilli. If it ain’t hot, it’s ain’t spicy. That, of course, can’t be further from the truth. Indian cuisine has got this knack of packing different degrees of spiciness all within a single dish.

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Masala Zone’s Delhi samosa chaat (£4.50) is a case in point. This ‘street food’ looks deceivingly simple with mainly yogurt, tamarind chutney and a heavily spiced warm samosa packed with peas, raisins and nuts. Go on the yogurt first, dip into the tamarind chutney before digging into the samosa to get the full flavour.

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Masala Zone offers a £9 lunch set that comes with a chicken thali with a starter (I went for the samosa). The butter chicken curry that comes with the thali though spicy is hardly (chilli) hot but that suited me just fine. Love the papadoms and chutney that came with it though the cabbage and potatoes was a bit bland.

Wife thought that the chapatti was too floury and I agree. But it was handy polishing off the chick pea curry. Then again, you might want to go with rice instead of chapatti if you can’t handle the flour.

Interestingly, the service staff is much warmer during dinnertime. It might be that there was only one lady serving the entire restaurant during lunch and she seemed rather harried. On a separate note, you wouldn’t want to leave visiting the loo till the last minute though. It takes some navigating through a red hued corridor, one wrong turn and you might end up in the back lane.

Masala Zone on Urbanspoon

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2 comments:

Su-Lin said...

I quite like Masala Zone too! It opened while I was a student and all my Indian friends recommended it.

Giraffe is pretty grim, isn't it? Well, their burgers are alright but I was so let down by a terrible huevos rancheros and now you tell me their laksa is with GREEN CURRY?!

C K said...

@Su-Lin,
The funny thing is that Giraffe at Angel Islington is quite popular with mothers as there's a baby changing room, which is always convenient. Other than that, I see no reason why people would frequent there. Seriously.

Yep, Masala Zone comes heavily recommended by my Indian pals as well. Do you know of any other good Indian eating places in London?