Myilai Masala has become not only my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the area, but also my favorite Indian restaurant. That’s saying a lot because 1) there’s a lot of decent Indian restaurants out there and 2) I’m not vegetarian.
The food is that good: this is one of the few restaurant that consistently surprises my palate. I just love the place especially the lunch buffets, and Dosa night on Wednesday.
If you’ve never experienced the cuisine of South India, you’ll discover that it’s quite unlike the Mughali cuisine that dominates the “Indian” restaurant scene in the US. Mughali is rooted in the cuisine of the Persian conquerors of India: meat-oriented, focused on chicken, goat, and lamb (generally leaving out pork because of Mughali’s Muslim roots, as well as beef, a nod to the sensibilities of the Hindu majority).
South Indian food is mainstream Hindu. Strictly vegetarian and based on rice, dal, and vegetables.The signature dish is undoubtedly Dosa, a crepe made from a fermented batter of rice and dal, usually stuffed with a tasty filling.I will warn you that I prefer my dosas crispy, and the “default” preparation at Myilai Masala is soft. I suppose it’s a matter of taste and of course the soft preparation is lighter on fat (an admirable characteristic of all Myilai Masala’s cooking). You can order your dosa crispy… you just have to ask.
Uttapams are to dosa as pancakes are to crepes: more or less the same batter, but grilled thick and usually mixed with vegetables (similar to a frittata). The traditional fillings are onions, tomatoes, and chilis. Same comments as to soft vs. crispy apply as with dosas.
What caught my attention at Myilai Masala was actually the preparation of the vegetarian curries. There’s an extensive selection and I’ve now tried about a dozen or more different dishes on the menu. They are uniformly excellent: subtly spiced and not overly fatted. You can eat a full meal and not feel like your liver has gone out on strike in protest.
The midday meal is a buffet which is a great bargain. You get your choice of idli with sambar and one other “starter,” choice of white rice or biriyani; rasam and another soup; 3-5 vegetarian curries, plus 1 or 2 dals and a dessert. Your waiter will bring you a freshly prepared dosa (plain or “masala”, i.e. filled with spiced potatoes), and — believe it or not as it’s normally a northern bread — a fresh baked naan. The spread varies a bit by day of week. There’s usually extra choices on Friday which seems to be their busiest lunch day. The actual dishes rotate throughout the week and seasonally – so you can go back frequently without eating the same meal twice.
Dosa night on Wednesday is another great deal. You’re handed a special menu with about 30 different varieties of dosa. You can order as many as you can eat, prepared fresh to order. If you’re like me you’ll find it hard to stop until you’re completely stuffed.
Myilai Masala also does catering, where they bring a portable grill to your back yard and make Dosa’s and Uttapam’s to order for your guests (along with a wonderful assortment of curries and sauces). It makes for a memorable party, and the cost is reasonable.
Strongly recommended for anyone who likes Indian food, and of course, for vegetarians especially.
Myilai Masala, 3100 Quakerbridge Road, Hamilton, NJ
Closed Mondays. T-Th 11:30-2:30, 5:30-9:30; F 11:30-3, 5:30-10; Weekends 11:30-3, 5:30-10
Decor: *** Cost: $20-30
This restaurant recommendation courtesy of Hidden Trenton www.hiddentrenton.com.