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Masala Art

[Masala Art '22] Post-Lockdown Feast at Fan FavouriteMasala Art


La Bota, Le Café des Stagiaires, The Caxton, Hop Project, Night Shift – it used to be that one could slake their thirst at any number of fine establishments on Dagu Lu, before stumbling across the road and devouring a curry. Sadly, each of these watering holes now exists only in the memory, much like overseas holidays and family ‘back home.’ One can, however, still find spicy gratification at the ever-present Masala Art, standing proud since 2001, and put through the OCC wringer no less than four times previously.


And so it was on July 22 that members of the OCC gathered for pre-drinks, excitedly anticipating the first visit to an actual Indian restaurant since March! Early chat centered around the many absences, with some OCC members joining the rest of post-lockdown Shanghai in Sanya, and some even able to, whisper it quietly, travel abroad. This included our esteemed Chairman, Greg. Fortunately, we had an able replacement in our non-able-bodied Vice Chairman, Andrew - still suffering the effects of a freak goalkeeping accident and wearing some kind of Victorian corset.


All nine curry aficionados arrived on time, warmly welcomed, and promptly seated – the restaurant had a good buzz about it at 8pm on a Friday; with most of the clientele being local patrons, Masala Art’s décor most certainly reflects the cuisine on offer and is eminently comfortable, helping to bring in a very solid score of 7.6 for atmosphere. Beers were ordered, with Kingfisher available by the bottle and Asahi on draft, and an opening speech by the VC assigned roles for the evening. Due to the absence of Punisher Steven, our outgoing token German, Robby (and former punisher himself), was given the keys to the chili vault.  


New-ish member Jamie was on ordering duty and surprised everyone, including himself, by picking a salad. This was made doubly baffling by the fact there is no chicken salad on the menu. Extra points for ordering off-menu? In this case, no.  


Other starters ordered included the ever-reliable tandoori chicken, desi samosas, and poppadoms (which, in a crime on par with ordering a chicken salad at a curry house, were almost forgotten). Perhaps this was done on purpose - with resident OCC chutney master, Bazmati, sunning himself in Sanya, a stand-in was required; Jamie also received the nod and needed to provide a chutney of his own for the discerning members of the OCC to rate. Bazmati, as it turned out, having suffered his first ‘thumbs down’ vote the previous meet and clearly terrified about some kind of coup, flew back from Sanya early in order to make the meet – this meant we had two chutneys going head-to-head!


Bazmati took an early lead for presentation, clearly disgusted by the lack of effort from his opponent/apprentice. Jamie preferred to let the taste speak for itself and in a ballsy move, provided a mango chutney; the same varietal that Baz scored 15 yes’ (from a possible 16) in the previous meet. It was closer than it should have been, but ultimately the vote on the night maintained the status quo, much to the relief of all.


Main courses followed rapidly, including desi dum ka murg, saag paneer, chatpati gobi, dhaba murg, and lamb rogan josh (voted dish of the night) - all brought together with mixed bread baskets (butter, garlic, and cheese naan) and saffron pulao rice. The food was generally good but perhaps not as delectable as some of us remembered from past visits, with 7.1 scored for overall quality. Service was warm & efficient, with dishes well-presented and drink orders quick to arrive, scoring 7.3.


The restaurant slowly cleared out, ourselves the only remaining patrons shortly after 10pm; somewhat surprising on a Friday night - the new normal? The staff didn’t hurry us to leave, dealing with more drink orders while the usual OCC business was taken care of, including shots provided by shotmaster (to whom all our congratulations go to on the birth of his second child). Perhaps in an effort to mask the taste of his chutney, Jamie also came equipped with a bottle of definitely-not-suitable-for-necking-shots-of whiskey. Considering the standard of food, the level of service, and the drinks consumed, RMB386 per person was considered a reasonable value, scoring 6.9. The end of the evening wasn’t far away at this stage, much to the staff's relief, and after the requisite photos, into the night we went; full but with insatiable appetites to sample ever-more cuisine from the subcontinent.  


Masala Art scored 7.2 overall and remains OCC approved for 2022!


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