With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Hartford Food Guy Returns - Royal Masala

This week the HFG checks out the revamped Masala restaurant Downtown:

After Mrs. HFG and I got home from Harry Potter, we did a few errands and chores and then started to think about where we wanted to go for dinner. It was hot, which made Indian food a good choice. We both wanted to have a couple of beers, so that meant the place had to be close by. That all added up to a trip to Masala at the corner of Main and Capitol.

Masala is now in its third iteration (it’s actually now Royal Masala). Masala 1.0 had absolutely amazing food and was reasonably priced. The service, however, was terrible. By terrible I mean quite possibly the worst service of any restaurant at which Mrs. HFG or I have ever eaten. As good as the food was (and it was really good) my wife and I finally had to stop going there.

Masala 2.0 was a bit cheaper and had pretty good service. The food, however, was mediocre and Mrs. HFG and I only went a couple of times before we concluded it just wasn’t worth it.

Thankfully, Masala 3.0 has the same reasonable prices as its predecessors, food that comes very close to Masala 1.0, and even better service than Masala 2.0.

To start, we ordered the vegetarian samosa chat, which is Masala’s take on the classic Indian street food. The chats themselves were perfectly fine, but the array of dips and condiments was very nice indeed (chick peas, onions, tomato, yogurt, and tamarind).

My wife had the luckhawi goat curry, which is a house special. It was very good and the goat was nice and tender, which isn’t easy to do for those familiar with goat meat.

I had the lamb vindaloo, which is lamb with cumin, hot chills and malt vinegar. Quite delicious with a nice blend of spiciness and tartness.

We also had an order of garlic nan. The portion was quite generous and delicious.

We also each had three Kingfishers (if you don’t know what a Kingfisher is, look it up).

Total tab, including a good tip for good service, $114; a very fair price.

Our only complaint was the heat of the food. Our server asked us how spicy we wanted it and we said “medium” which she must have interpreted as “medium for Anglos who aren’t used to Indian food.” Last night, however, my wife met some folks at Masala for dinner and ordered her food “spicy.” She brought some home for me to try and we both agreed it was wonderful.

The interior of Masala is interesting, because there is a ton of exposed brick and hardwood floors. While that doesn’t exactly fit with an Indian motif, it is a very nice space. There is also a comfortable back room with a bar.
I am very happy Mrs. HFG went to Masala 3.0. We had a great meal for a very fair price. It was the perfect way to end a fun (and delicious) Saturday and we now have Masala back in our lives.

Here’s a link to Masala’s website, there isn’t much there, but trust me, this place is good – http://indianrestauranthartfordct.com/index.htm


  1. It always kills me when you say stuff like $114 is a very fair price for 2 people. We get it you have a lot of money and can afford to eat at expensive restaurants a lot, you don't need to be so condescending about it.

  2. My intention is not to be condescending or show off whatever money you think I have (which I am 99% sure is a lot less than you seem to think). It is simply to try to assess whether the meal was worth the price, so that, whatever your means, you make an intelligent choice when you decide to go out to eat.
    For some folks $114 isn't a whole lot, but they still don't want to waste their money. For some $114 is something they can do once in a while and I want to help them make sure their one night out every month, or every couple of months, is a good one. For some $114 may be a very special occasion, like a birthday or an anniversary or a graduation. They shouldn't waste it on a bad meal and if I can help them make that occasion a really good one, then I have done something worthwhile.
    If what I write really bothers you, and it appears to, then don't read it anymore. It's not like anyone is holding a gun to your head and it's not like I am going to self-censor to be sure not to bother you.

  3. Try India Oven in West Hartford.

    Better food and far cheaper.

    Probably the best tika masala anywhere.

    One drawback is that they stopped serving lamb due to the price.

    So if you want a vindaloo with meat you have to go with beef.

  4. Hartford Food GuyJuly 28, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Jimmy, thanks for the tip. I will put it on the ever growing list of places I have to go.

  5. Cosmos International in West Hartford has excellent takeout. They sell it by the pound so you can try a lot of different things. The kabobs (made elsewhere) take meat-on-a-stick to a whole new level.

  6. Hartford Food GuyJuly 28, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Elizabeth, Cosmos also goes on the list.

  7. Utsav in Vernon/Rockville! Easily the best Indian food I have had outside of the UK...and maybe even as good as that. The chef is fearless and confident, thus there are dishes on the menu you won't see anywhere else. Try the Kori Nilgiri chicken, with a tangy green sauce, and the spinach cups app. Amazing!

  8. Or, maybe you only feature restaurants in Hartford proper?

  9. Hi AmyG. Thanks for reading and commenting! This blog usually stays within the city limits, but the HFG has a blog that often ventures outside.

  10. We think the food and service at the Royal Masala is excellent too! We did however feel it was a bit pricey (though worth it because the lamb is so tender!) and were surprised that we had to ask for poppadoms rather than be given them complimentary. The dishes don't come with rice either, you have to ask for it and are then charged $5. Surely, rice should be included with the meal.

    Off topic but, Jimmy Hartford mentions another restaurant, but we don't see how it is traditional Indian if they are serving beef. Indians don't eat beef.

    We will likely eat again at the Royal Masala, but hope that they make some slight changes in response to our criticism.

  11. The food in this place is horrible to say the least. Also the is quite expensive for the small portioning they provide. It might partly be because it is located in a big city - Hartford, Ct. We bought Mutton Briyani & curry and just got mutton bones. Guess the owner imports goat from Somalia. It felt like he just opened up ready to serve packets from Indian grocery stores and served it to us.

    The service is terrible and very pompous. Many times I do not care about the service if the food is good but this place is a bad experience overall. I really like this place under the previous management, but currently it is absolute rubbish.

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