Masala Theory is a new Indian Restaurant in Surry Hills, about a 15 minute walk from Central station. The restaurant’s front is an unassuming renovated terrace with weathered paint, not unlike the repurposed, colourful and well-lit houses along Wigram Street in Harris Park. My girlfriend and I were recently invited to try out their new menu.
The first thing you notice when you walk into Masala Theory is the colourful interior and the huge vintage bike hung on the wall with neon tyres. We were greeted by the manager, Ritel and one of the service staff who found us a seat very quickly.
The interior itself is bustling with life, plastered with signs, items from India or full-length murals. We really liked the music which was modern Indian pop music; groovy and tasteful.
The food is described as “modern Indian”, introducing diners to a fresh take on Indian food while still staying true to their roots.
The Pappadums were freshly fried and lightly spiced. They were broken up into bite sized pieces and paired with a delicious Mint Chutney .
The Beetroot Poriyal was the first starter to come out. The soft, warm beetroot was served on a bed of perfectly cooked lentils, mustard seeds and chilli. We really liked how the desiccated coconut sprinkled on top added a nice crunch that complemented the soft beetroot. Highly recommend this dish.
Next to come out was a marvel of culinary engineering: the Three Sisters Chaat. Three huge leaves of spinach were battered and deep fried, then arranged on a bed of chickpeas and potato to resemble the Three Sisters rock formation in the Blue Mountains. To finish it off was a generous cascade of yoghurt, tamarind sauce, chilli sauce and mint sauce.
I love how this dish combines two favourites of mine, spinach chaat and samosa chaat. Definitely worth trying (but share it between three or more people).
This dish was a creation of the head chef, Rushabh, who has a very personal connection to it. This is what his mother used to cook him for a quick dinner. It’s a cottage cheese, spinach, onion, raisin, cashew and chilli mix wrapped in a rice flour crepe and topped with a tomato chutney. with the perfect amount of warm heat and flavours from all over India, we loved everything about this dish.
The Garlic Naan was served fresh out of the tandoor and boy, they did not skimp out on the garlic, some of which had caramelised and charred. The bread itself was light and well cooked with a huge air pocket. It’s a great accompaniment for any curry.
We also tried the Cheese Chilli Coriander Naan. The cheese used here has a very strong flavour and the chilli gave it a nice warm heat. It was a little too rich for our tastes but for those of you looking for something heavier and more adventurous than your regular naan, give this one a go.
We love eggplant so we were super excited to see the Eggplant Bharta come out! What we got was more amazing that we could have imagined; they smoke the eggplant before making it into a curry, imparting a smokey aroma and flavour similar to Baba Ganoush. It also had an unexpected heat to it. If you like eggplant curries, you have to try this one.
The Vegetarian Balti is a mixture of vegetables and cubes of paneer cooked in a sweet, rich tomato gravy. It’s essentially a vegetarian butter chicken. We loved the fresh, firm paneer pieces they put into the curry and the sweet, mild flavour cut down the smoke and spice of the Eggplant Bharta very well.
The Jeera Rice is flavoured with cumin and lightly spiced with garam masala. The rice was perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of bite. A really good accompaniment to the curries and the spices definitely added more than just colour to the rice.
We were very keen to try out the Paan Kulfi for dessert. For those of you who are not familiar with Paan, it’s a dessert of stuffed betel leaves that has the same freshening effect as the seed mix you’re sometimes offered at the counter of an Indian restaurant. Masala Theory has turned this into a Kulfi, thereby combining my two favourite Indian desserts. I can now die happy. If you like paan or have never tried it before, try this.
For drinks, we ordered their Lavender Lassi ($7) and Aam Panna ($9).
We were told the Lavender Lassi took a lot of experimentation to get right but once they did, they got a lassi, like the bubblegum lassi, that no other Indian restaurant has. The lavender is understated, being more of a sweet lassi with a hint of lavender which we both found very pleasant.
The Aam Panna was a much bolder yet still refreshing drink. It had a bit of lime and made with raw mango rind giving it a sweet, salty and slightly sour flavour.
We had a great experience at Masala Theory, with the lively vibe, great music, colourful decorations and polite, hardworking staff. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the menu and the decor. We both of us walked away with a new perspective on Indian food. If you love Indian food, you’ll be amazed at what they’ve done at Masala Theory.
Special thanks to Rhys at CoCreate Communications for organising our amazing meal.