Caitlin McGrath | Sep 14, 200511:41 AM    

Masala Grill has a menu of northern-Indian standards, with some interesting-sounding dishes, but what distinguishes it is that it also has one of, if not the largest menu of Desi Chinese dishes I've heard of in the Bay Area, with over a dozen items (you can see the menu on their web site, linked below).

From what I've sampled, I'd say it's good, but doesn't compare with the better Bay Area Indo-Pak places with similar prices.

I didn't ask for specific spice levels in any dish I ordered. Madras fish curry was medium-spiced with a slightly creamy tomato sauce and well-cooked chunks of mild white fish. Mushroom taka tak is small chunks of white mushroom and corn in a slightly spicy and very rich and creamy sauce - really too rich for my taste. Chicken tikka was chunks of all white meat (next time I'll ask for dark meat) that was moist, and the spicing was good enough but didn't penetrate the meat. The accompanying thin cilantro chutney is good stuff, though.

Begare baingan seems to be a different dish everywhere I go. At Shalimar, it's a simple dry (i.e., not saucy) spicy dish of chunks of eggplant with tomato and chile; here it's eggplant with a thick, slightly spicy nut-based sauce (cashews, I assume). The sauce was interesting, but the sauce/eggplant ratio should have been reversed (way too much sauce, not enough eggplant), and it was annoying that they left the stems on the top pieces, making them more work to eat.

The only Desi Chinese dishes I've tried here are chicken Manchurian and chicken 65. Chicken Manhurian wasn't bery interesting - dry-sauteed chunks with some herbs, but no heat. Chicken 65 was also dry-cooked chunks, each coated in a red spice mixture with a good medium-hot heat level. The Hakka noodles were on a lot of tables when I visited (I was usually the only non-South Asian customer), but I don't know if there's anything distinguishing about them.

Naan was fresh and hot, somewhat thin, but soft, with nice brown blistering, while roti was dry and stiff, with a taste reminding me of whole wheat matzoh (in other words, not recommended). One time, when I had to wait a while for my to-go order, I was given a mango lassi, which was good.

This is a much plainer place than you might thimk from the web site. It's not ugly; the walls are painted a saffron color, the tables are black, and he chairs are aluminum in the style you can buy from Williams-Sonoma, etc. But you order at the counter, help yourself to dishes and flatware, and your food is brought to your table.

Masala Grill
39158 Paseo Padre Pkwy, in Gateway Plaza shopping Center
Fremont 94538

Link: http://www.masalagrill.com/index.htm

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