The name of Euless’ recently opened Indian-Pakistani restaurant (or “Indo-Pak,” as the owners prefer) is Masala Masala. “Masala” is a generic term in South Asian cuisine that can mean any number of different spice combinations in dried or paste form. “Masala Masala” would seem to be a boast (“We’re way hot!”) or a warning (“Timid palates, beware!”) or both. In either case, the proprietors seem to think the flavors here are so powerful, the name had to be squared.
There’s nothing spicy about the plain atmosphere inside. On a recent visit, each large-screen TV was broadcasting a talking head, one from CNN, the other from ESPN. The only attempt at decoration was a long row of colorful fake-flower bouquets atop a partition running through the middle of the dining space. The patrons, almost exclusively Indian and Pakistani women and men, clearly didn’t care about the modest digs. They conversed enthusiastically among themselves and shared family-style large plates of basmati rice and sizzling chicken and lamb kebabs from the house grill.
A quick perusal of the lunch buffet revealed that many items from the menu were also offered there, so we decided to hit the trough. The owner’s son served as manager that afternoon, and he cheerfully guided us through the long row of steaming meat and vegetable curries and other dishes. The overlap between Indian and Pakistani food is large, he said, but there are a few tell-tale signs that distinguish them: The use of meat, especially beef, is very Pak, and the flesh tends to be served bone-in. The restaurant’s masalas also varied in subtle ways between countries, although both shared some symphony of mildly bitter cumin, pungently sweet cardamom, garlic, and, of course, hot peppers. One signature Pak dish called haleen (lentils with shredded beef) was regrettably not available that day. Is it good form to make patrons salivate over something they can’t have?
The dishes that were available ranged from the solid to the spectacular. The spice flame was generally kept at low-to-medium, but flavor was plentiful. The chicken biryani was a hearty pilaf variation that had lean white-meat breast chunks baked with basmati rice, bits of parsley, and whole bay leaves. It seemed to possess healing powers of its own. Fans of beef stew will swoon over the Pak specialty known as nihari: large pieces of beef shank that had been slow-simmered in a thick, vaguely sweet brown sauce until they separated into tender threads. The Pak main course, keema mattar, was prepared with lean, finely ground beef, round potato chunks, and large, firm green peas. Impressively, the spuds and the peas held their own against the meat.
Vegetarians will likely dig the sambara: shredded cabbage, carrots, and green bell peppers stirred together into a surprisingly satisfying moist stack. The allu baingan contained fat, silken wedges of purple-skinned eggplant, soft potato pieces, and a thick brown sauce informed by smoky garlic and soothing ginger. Slippery okra slices were joined with smaller bits of onion and tomato to create bhindi masala, a rich veggie stew to rival anything in a down-home American cookbook.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Masala Masala’s commitment to quality? The naan isn’t left to dry up on the buffet. Instead, it’s brought to the table after you’ve served yourself. Masala Masala’s version of the traditional bread is a soft, steaming, dinner-plate-sized piece that’s puffy in places and lightly singed in others. Like most of Masala Masala’s other fare, it was deliciousness squared.
415 N Main St, Euless. 817-267-2800. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.