BY HAILEY MERKT
Masala Bay has an eyesore exterior, cluttered with lit plastic signs. Sheer off-white curtains drape from the window, refusing me a glimpse of its inside. 3B Regina St. N. Uptown Waterloo is home to this hole in the wall and despite its “divey” décor, I decided to give it a try.
As I clutched the cold, metal handle belonging to a very heavy-framed door, I released an exaggerated breath polluted with hesitance into the air.
To my surprise I entered an authentic Indian eatery, bursting with rich cultural accents.
A symbolic gold and red hue ran throughout the interior, hoping to bring strength, wealth, positivity and purity to guests.
To the left of the entrance hung a photo of owner and head chef, Ritesh Bhargava, with his wife and Stephen Hawking, the great English theoretical physicist and cosmologist.
Once seated, I inquired about the photo. My waitress informed me that Hawking dines at Masala Bay whenever he is in town.
“How interesting,” I thought aloud.
I was then handed a weighty metal menu, filled with dish titles I couldn’t pronounce but delightful descriptions that helped me visualize the food.
As an appetizer I ordered the Beggar’s Purse.
This flaky pea and potato-stuffed treat is a two person sharable. Its triangular-shaped appearance was perfectly pinched at the seams, enclosing its moist and flavourful insides. I really enjoyed this savory sample-sized appetizer.
For my main, I went with one of their signature dishes, Murg Tikka Makhani. Westernized people know this dish as butter chicken. I also ordered Kesari Pulao, which is a saffron-spiced rice.
Saffron is an orange-yellow spice but also a food colouring and dye made from dried saffron crocus flowers and is one of the most costly spices in the world.
As I waited for my entree I enjoyed the calm Indian soundtrack, momentarily losing myself to its hymns.
My meal arrived quite quickly. Each item was brought out in gold-plated, basket-shaped dishes and placed into a revolving stand. Tea light candles were then lit beneath each dish to keep it warm.
It’s almost like they brought a personalized buffet right to my table, so I could serve myself an appropriate-sized plate.
The smell of my complementary dishes was intoxicating — sweet but spicy.
The Murg Tikka Makhani was rosy in colour with creamy swirling streaks of butter. It resembled Vincent van Gogh’s swirling sky in Starry Night.
I scooped an equal portion of both dishes onto my plate and tried each item alone and then both items together. I think a forkful of rice and chicken is the best way to eat this divine duo.
The flavours married together in my mouth, tasting mostly sweet. However, once swallowing, the sweet taste subsided, leaving an aftertaste of Indian spice. Personally I enjoyed this sneaky kick, though some might dislike the quick turn in taste.
Once my stomach reached its full capacity, I requested my leftovers in a doggy bag along with my bill.
Dinner for one, with enough leftover for a second meal, came to $26.97 before tax and tip.
I would suggest the restaurant decrease its portion sizes to create more reasonable priced dishes, which would also decrease the amount of leftovers. Not everyone likes them.
I also wouldn’t recommend it for people who can’t tolerate spices. Even their most moderately spiced dishes come with a slight kick.
Overall, I would give my experience a 7 out of 10, only because of the unpleasant exterior — otherwise I would have given it a 9 out of 10.
My server was welcoming, knowledgeable and on the ball which is needed at a foreign cuisine diner.
Masala Bay is a hidden gem within the Uptown Waterloo area. It’s quaint and hospitable once you’re in, but it’s exterior needs to be revamped to attract more business.
BY HAILEY MERKT