Masala House Indian Bistro brings 'first-of-its-kind' dining experience to Pittsburgh | Restaurant Reviews | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Masala House Indian Bistro brings 'first-of-its-kind' dining experience to Pittsburgh

click to enlarge Korma served with rice at Masala House Indian Bistro - CP PHOTO: JOIE KNOUSE
CP photo: Joie Knouse
Korma served with rice at Masala House Indian Bistro

Unlike many of Pittsburgh’s Indian restaurants, there’s no lunchtime buffet at Masala House Indian Bistro. Instead, the restaurant carries what are called “full meals": Rather than walking down the line of heat-lamp-warmed dishes, diners simply request a refill from the daily menu, a short list of chef-curated dishes served in tasting-style portions. The owners of the restaurant, brothers Suresh Kumar and Prasanna Kumar, and their partner Harjas Sandhu, are calling this experience the first-of-its-kind in Pittsburgh.

Masala House isn’t the Kumar brothers' first restaurant. The duo has been running eateries for 15 years, opening their first spot in Canton, Ohio. In over a decade, they’ve run restaurants in Morgantown, Moon, Mt. Lebanon, Cranberry, and Downtown. Their new spot on Baum Boulevard— the former space of Chaz & Odette — marks the family’s eighth venture.

When I arrived for my lunchtime visit, I wasn’t given a menu. Instead, the server set down a gleaming tray in front of me, loaded with five silver bowls surrounding a pile of rice and a savory cracker, accompanied by a basket of naan. The “full meal” consisted of eggplant curry, mushroom matar, chicken manchurian, tandoor chicken, dal makhani, pakora, and chicken tikka masala.

click to enlarge Tandoori chicken and garlic nan - CP PHOTO: JOIE KNOUSE
CP photo: Joie Knouse
Tandoori chicken and garlic nan

In the evening, when a menu is required to order, options include dishes found on typical Indian menus — masala, curry, dal, briyani — along with a slew of items unique to Masala House. For the experienced diner, the restaurant hopes these hard-to-find dishes will bring “nostalgic feelings of home."

This selection of chef specials boasts dishes like gutti vankaya, a South Indian eggplant curry slow-cooked with tamarind, or chettinad, a coconut and poppy seed curry named after a region known for its culinary treasures.

Out of my seven “full meal” dishes, five were particularly memorable. The eggplant curry and mushroom matar were a bit mild for my taste, the eggplant carrying an unpleasant amount of oil. But these shortcomings were quickly overcome by their companions.  

Tikka masala was sweet and tomato-heavy, with pieces of tender, slow-roasted chicken. The dal of the day, makhani, was lush with butter (the name translates to “lentils with butter”). It came out kicking with cinnamon; one bite seemed to hold more spice than the entire platter. 

The Chicken Manchurian, what my server described as like Chicken 65 — a popular, deep-fried, spicy chicken dish “but not” — reminded me of Chinese-style sesame chicken with additional chilis. The tandoor chicken didn’t need anything else but flavor from the cylindrical oven; it burst with the richness of the tandoor. My pakora, a fried snack, was a savory sample of traditional street food.

The full meal was the perfect way to experience Masala House’s food. It was better (and cheaper) than a buffet, and the options didn’t feel like a hodgepodge of everything on the menu. There was a sampling of all sides of Indian cuisine — something mild, something spicy, a touch of tandoor — and it gave the chef a way to add a regional edge to his dishes without overwhelming those new to Indian cuisine.

click to enlarge Karahi - CP PHOTO: JOIE KNOUSE
CP photo: Joie Knouse
Karahi

Favorite Features

1. Naan

I love naan and Masala House's didn't disappoint. The restaurant's fresh naan, baked and delivered to your table, is thick, crispy, and perfectly bubbly.



2. Pillows

A wooden bench makes up the majority of the dining room seating and Masala House makes up for the uncomfortable wood with cushions and ornate, gold-patterned pillows.

3. BYOB

Masala House has a small selection of drinks — think chai and mango lassis — but if you want something stronger, it's BYOB. 

Location Details

Masala House Indian Bistro

5102 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh East Liberty

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