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Restaurant Review: Garam Masala

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Owner Shahid Anis looks into the kitchen as chef Gurmi Singh prepares a dish at Garam Masala Tuesday.

Whether it’s the music or the décor, Indian-Pakistani restaurants often have a distinct feeling and ambiance. Garam Masala is different.

Food is served on Styrofoam dishware, and nothing about the décor is unique except for a few shelves with a stereo in the corner. At first glance, it seems to cater to takeout customers.

The shrimp pakora, marinated in yogurt, ginger and garlic, is a flavorful way to start a meal. The baked tamarind sauce made in-house adds to this appetizer for a contrasting taste. However, with only two batter-fried pieces, the dish is overpriced and not easily shared.

For a cheaper and more satisfying appetizer, the warm peshawari naan, leavened bread stuffed with grated coconut, pistachios, cashews, raisins and almonds, is a sweet dish that goes well with the sauces of the restaurant’s entrées.

Offering a wide selection of vegetarian, chicken, lamb and seafood dishes, Garam Masala can satisfy a variety of tastebuds. Traditional beef specialties are also offered, but only on the weekend. For large groups with wide-ranging tastes, this restaurant can be a good takeout solution.

Named after a blend of spices from India and Pakistan, the restaurant certainly lives up to its title. Entrées are served mild, medium or hot and have a slight kick to them. Portions are the size of a standard Styrofoam bowl, but all the food is very filling.

The palak paneer, homemade cheese cubes in a spinach sauce, is thick and has a saltier taste. Basmati rice is served with most dishes, and while it’s somewhat dry, it helps balance out the many flavors of the restaurant.

A dish that stands out at Garam Masala is the coconut chicken. The light curry, cooked with ginger, garlic, coconut and the restaurant’s special blend of spices is enough to make any mouth water.

The chai tea served in Styrofoam cups is nothing special and the gulab jamun, an Indian doughnut in rose water and syrup, isn’t as unique as it sounds. However, the restaurant also offers homemade mango ice cream with pistachios to satisfy after-dinner cravings.

Garam Masala is almost a fast-food restaurant, but its developed menu and personable staff give it the slightest family-restaurant feel. While the food is affordable, it certainly doesn’t come with the ambiance of other local restaurants with similar cuisine.

Eating at Garam Masala is about finding the gems of flavor hidden on the menu that make the experience worthwhile — and possibly getting them to go.

Reach reporter Lexie Krell at weekender@dailyuw.com.

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