According to the list, the next stop on our serial dining adventure was to be Darul Kabab, an Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurant allegedly located at 3926 61st St. I could find only one review of it online: undated, in the Queens Tribune online dining guide. Turns out, that’s because it doesn’t exist anymore. It has been replaced by another Indian restaurant called Masala. We went there for lunch today.
If you don’t have a lot of time to read, let me sum up: Go there. It’s awesome. One of the very best Indian restaurants we’ve been to, and that’s saying a lot, since we’ve been to many. Keep reading if you want the details.
Masala is mere steps away from the 61st St station in Woodside, so even if you’re not from here, it’s easy to get to. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:
In that top picture, you can see the beauty of Woodside dining– there’s such amazing diversity in the food here. Thai food right next to Indian food right next to Mexican food. There are no icky corporate chains here other than things like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts– you can bet these restaurants are owned by people who come from these cultures and grew up eating this food.
Masala is widely and very positively reviewed on the web. You can read about it on Yelp, Urban Spoon, Chowhound, Restaurant.com (bonus: you can buy a $25 gift certificate for $10!), and the unfortunately now-defunct Shauna Eats Sunnyside blog.
The service we received was efficient, attentive, and friendly. We thought it might have been because we were there at an odd hour and were the only ones in the restaurant, but several of the reviews I’ve since read online note the excellent service, so maybe it’s like that even during busy times. The lighting was just right, the place is clean and tastefully decorated (well, except maybe for the Mahatma Ghandi Rules of Customer Service posted by the door, seen below), and there is authentic Indian music playing softly in the background.
Our server was friendly and informative– I suspect he’s either the owner or the manager, as he was exceptionally knowledgeable and really, REALLY wanted us to be happy with our dining experience. He recognized Allan, who ate there several times for lunch when he lived on 62nd St more than four years ago. That’s impressive. He turned us on to their cheese lassi, which is simply incredible and is not listed on the menu. Since he wasn’t terribly busy, he also made us an Indian lemonade just for the heck of it and tossed it in on the house. Their cheese lassi contains homemade cheese, pistacchios, and rosewater, and they garnish it with saffron. The lemonade is frozen and likewise topped with saffron water. Here they are:
Our server told us the cheese lassi is considered a very healthy drink, and it’s a popular choice on farms in India on really hot days. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that a frozen lemonade is just the very best thing on a warm day in June. On top of these amazing drinks, they also have regular soft drinks, and our water glasses were never empty. They do serve beer and wine, and next time we may order a bottle to go with this amazingly flavorful food. Oh yes, there WILL be a next time.
Absolutely everything on the menu sounded good. Lots of standard Indian fare: curry, tandoori, biryani, and malasa dishes among others, plus a few things I’d never seen before like masala crab cakes. Like many Indian restaurants, there’s a variety of vegetarian fare. They also now serve a Nepali grill plate, which is not on the menu.
We ordered lunch specials– various meat curries with either soup or salad. I had lamb curry with Mulligatawny soup, and Allan had chicken curry, also with Mulligatawny soup. We also got some naan (they spell is “nan” here), and since I’m simply not capable of eating Indian food without it, we got some raita (they spell it “raitha” here). Here’s the food:
This is the best Mulligatawny soup I’ve ever had. It’s pureed, which was new for me, and it had exactly the right amount of salt. They also leave a slice of lime floating in it for extra flavor. Like the threads of saffron atop the cheese lassi, this type of attention to detail could be found throughout the meal and really made it special.
The lamb curry was also the best I’ve ever had. They will adjust the level of spice to your taste– the majority of their clientele is not Indian, so they don’t assume everyone’s taste for heat will be the same. I asked for mine medium, and it was absolutely perfect. I could feel the heat for sure; it was enough to add significantly to the flavor of the curry without making it challenging to eat. Allan felt the same about his chicken curry. The rice was also extremely well done. The nan was just average– it wasn’t as delicate as other naans I’ve enjoyed more, but still enjoyable. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the raitha, which was too sweet for my taste. That’s okay, though, because it frees me up to try some of the other appetizers and accompaniments on the menu next time we go. Online reviewers rave about the samosas and the Bombay mushrooms, and I’m dying to try the masala crab cake.
Prices are very reasonable. This entire meal was $25.30 plus tip. Go eat!