Sunday, April 4, 2010

India Masala

A couple of weeks ago Ian and I went to a festival celebrating Indian culture and food at the county building. While there, we sampled food from several Indian restaurants around town, and were most pleased with what we had at the booth of India Masala, which is permanently located in the Riviera. For the first time we had dosa, a lentil and rice pancake/crepe that is a typical dish of Southern India (the last picture shows this first experience). We happened to pick up a postcard offering 25% off our check so we decided to head to the Riviera to see what else was being offered.

It's no surprise that the Riviera is on its last legs, and ranks up there with Circus Circus as being the most rundown hotel on the strip. We certainly worked up an appetite as we made the looooong walk from the parking garage to the food court (next time I'd valet in the front of the casino). No, we weren't expecting Indian Masala to be a semi-fast food restaurant, but as it turns out, it was. The prices aren't really justified considering this, but the food is really good and it was packed with more Indians and convention attendees than any other tenant's space when we were there (see below), so we figured it was safe to stay. We had to wait about in line for five minutes and then another ten minutes or so for our food, which was a bit frustrating, but I felt rewarded when I got my dosa. Today I opted for one stuffed with spinach, the palak dosa ($7.99), but you can also choose from a filling of chickpeas (chole), potatoes (masala), or no filling at all (plain). It is served with what I learned to be the traditional accompaniments, sambar (a vegetable soup) and coconut chutney (imagine a thick and textured almond milk). There is also a third side that I can best describe as a pureed and spiced red bell pepper spread. The dosa is flavorful enough on its own, but the sauces add another dimension and were very much enjoyed. The dosa itself is delicate, with a browned, crisp exterior and a soft, lightly chewy interior. You can get a better idea of the textural difference when you order it plain, but the filling makes it a meal. I must say it's a dish that's growing on me, and I'd bear the pain of walking through that casino to enjoy another one day. Ian was less thrilled with his dish, but it seems to me that the emphasis here is on lesser known Southern Indian cuisine so chicken vindaloo ($11.99) might not have been the best option. This vindaloo was flavorful but not nearly hot enough for Ian who asked them to make it as spicy as possible. The larger problem was the color of the sauce, which was reminiscent of an artificially colored sweet and sour. The color should have been deeper and darker had it been a result of the spices. Things that don't look natural probably aren't, so we'll just say this color most likely wasn't derived from where it should have been.

If you are interested in trying a new kind of Indian dish that isn't available everywhere, I would definitely recommend coming here for the dosa (did I mention it's gluten-free and Vegan? Not a huge deal to me but it is becoming so for a lot of people). I'd be willing to try a few other things but I think what I had was the most reasonably priced for you what you get, and certainly the most unique.

Today's dish ratings:
Dosa: 8.5
Chicken Vindaloo: 6.5

Restaurant Rating: 3 (you can't really call it a restaurant so I'm not sure if this is fair or not)

Tip: beers at La Salsa across the food court are only $2, making the overall meal a better value.
Electric Chicken Vindaloo
Line outside
Dosa interior
Dosa from Indian festival

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