MasalaBar is the latest plush, fine dine that opened its doors in Pune a month back. Their aim is to dazzle patrons with stunning mixology, high energy dining and stylish partying experience – all in 1 space. Does it work? Well, not for me.
When you enter through those beautifully crafted doors, be ready to be awed. The decor sets the tone for an uber-experience. The large bar is the main attraction though, with the high chairs, great lighting and a really wide selection of spirits.
Our tasting session started with their signature cocktails. The names were funky and raised curiosity. Damn, those cocktails looked great as well. Unfortunately, the heavy use of Indian spices in every cocktail was a deal-breaker for me. I just cannot enjoy a cocktail when a star anise is floating on top, releasing its aroma and flavours in every sip I take. Spices are meant for food and that’s where they belong, not in my cocktails.
I feel really bad, because the mixology behind the cocktails was beyond belief. And to prove this point, I ordered a standard Whiskey Sour at the end without any star anise. I can confidently say, it was the best Whiskey Sour (with egg white), I’ve ever had in Pune. My suggestion is – do try all the cocktails here but make sure you ask the bartenders to keep all the spices out.
MasalaBar offers a range of appetizers in varying sizes – bar bites, street food and tapas. Some of these really stood out and I would strongly recommend.
Pyaaz Ke Challe or Onion Rings was the best dish of the evening. Loaded with Anna Gun Powder, everything from the presentation, the non-oily texture, the crispiness and the balanced flavour was a delight. And at ₹60 only, there is no better value for money deal you can buy in a fine dine.
Guntur Chilli Chicken had good flavours but wasn’t mixed well. Chilli Pork Ribs would go really well with any non-spiced cocktails at the bar. Khar Danda Jhinga Bhel was disappointing – the prawns and bhel did not go well together and at ₹230, didn’t make sense either.
Shish Tik-Tok was a mixed skewer of Chicken and Lamb kebabs. While the chicken was fine, lamb wasn’t impressive at all. Murugan Baby Idli is a deceptive little dish that will definitely be loved by most. Paneer Tikka Achari Mayo is unnecessarily complicated and can be avoided. Kutch Nu Kacchi Dabeli tasted like the original dish but who would want to have something like this in a fine dine?
I am yet to see a heavily experimental modern Indian dish that won’t leave me disappointed. Carbon Pav Bhaji is yet another attempt at creating a hype about something that should be best left in it’s original form. Activated charcoal is used to create a completely black coloured Pav Bhaji that not just looks bad, but tastes weird as well.
Thai Curry Risoto is fusion food that either people will love or hate. Mutton Ishtu Bowl was something between a Biryani, a Mandi and a Chello Kebab. Out of the 3 mains I tasted, this one did stand out though.
Desserts were unimpressive. Faces of Chocolate fuses different forms of chocolates into a single dish. How I wish there was a complementing flavour to go with all the chocolate in it! Gulab Air Jamun will leave you searching for the real taste of a gulab jamun that you know for ages.
Compared to other fine dines in Pune, food is reasonably priced here with all appetizers priced around ₹200-250 and mains around ₹350. Alcohol on the other hand is steep, especially the cocktails at ₹450+.
Molecular gastronomy and modern Indian cuisine is a fad that will die a natural death soon. It can dazzle and impress patrons with over-the-top presentations but will leave them hungry and poorer at the end.
MasalaBar left me confused. It’s a great looking place with some of the finest mixologists. The over zealous attempt at ‘serving unique food’ diminishes the overall experience.