March 5, 2014

Kicks! Quicks | Get in the zone at Masala Zone in Myrtle Beach

Wow! The latest New Jersey import to come to town is so amazing that we might have to forgive the Garden State for Snookie.

Wow! The latest New Jersey import to come to town is so amazing that we might have to forgive the Garden State for Snookie.

With two stellar restaurant successes north of the Mason-Dixon line, it is our good fortune that family connections brought the Rawat family to the Grand Strand.

They have transformed the space formerly occupied by King David into a sumptuous eatery, both in design and cuisine. It is gorgeous, and the rich palate of fabrics and colors is equally matched by myriad spices that create a similar tapestry for the taste buds.

After less than a week of operations, they have amassed glowing postings on Urbanspoon and Yelp and a legion of Facebook fans.

Among them is Jeff Craddock, a D.C. transplant, who has been yearning for good Indian food. He declares that Masala could give some Washington “must eats” a run for their money.

His wife, Jeri, added that they just might serve the best samosas (deep fried turnovers filled with seasoned potatoes and green peas) that she has ever had.

In 48 hours of learning of its opening, Jeff had the lunch buffet, took home dinner and dined in with Jeri Sunday evening.

While I lack his experienced palate, my time spent in the Masala Zone made for much happiness.

Although I have my favorite Indian dishes, for our first visit, my husband and I chose the lunch buffet ($7.95 weekdays and $9.95 on the weekends). What a bargain.

We were promptly greeted, offered beverages and served a warm basket of Tandoori Naan (white flour bread baked in a clay oven). That and the raita (fresh yogurt with shredded cucumber and carrot) were perfection, but still more delights awaited.

The house salad, albeit simple, was exceptional, an opinion that I share with Rahanna LoDico, who was visiting from Redford, Mich.

“It was really fresh and definitely different, the cilantro really popped,” she said. “It was interesting and flavorful.”

A bite of said salad, naan, raita and one of the savory entrees was a taste explosion. The interplay of the cool and spicy was a delight upon the tongue.

The sublime heat of the Chicken Hyderabadi (curry in a variety of exotic spices) was tempered by the lentils in the Daal Makhani, the potatoes in the Aloo Saag and the homemade cheese in the Paneer Makhani.

The Tandoori Chicken was tender and wrapped in naan with raita and a little salad made for an exotic burrito, as did the Fish Curry.

A lovely surprise were the Mushrooms 65. Although not a regular menu item, these Indian-Chinese inspired marinated button mushrooms, which are batter fried, are poppably addictive.

Indian is one of the cuisines that I will eat blindly, anticipating the need for water and bread should the heat get to be too much. The taste rewards always outweigh the risk.

For the less adventurous, their Facebook page suggests Chicken Korma (a rich, creamy dish). From previous experience, I would add Mulligatawny; Vegetable Pakora and Samosas; Tandoori Chicken; Butter Chicken and any of the breads as alternatives. Your server is your best guide as to heat levels, and they are more than amenable to cooking them how you would like them.

I cannot wait to go back and consider myself blessed that I live within their five-mile delivery radius. Their $30 minimum will not be an issue as I have not yet even begun to explore their extensive menu.

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