Cheap Eats: Monsoon Masala
By Deborah Grossman
Monsoon Masala, 2375 Contra Costa Blvd., Ste. A, Pleasant Hill, (925) 685-9100, www.monsoonmasala.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Monsoon Masala, a stylish café decorated in hues of pumpkin and maroon, serves creative Indian food—without a buffet table in sight. The restaurant’s name refers to the annual monsoon season of Goa, the owner’s home state on the southwest coast of India. Several chicken and vegetable dishes are marinated in an alluring, sweet-savory Goan spice mix of dried coriander, parsley, and nutmeg.
The restaurant also offers tiffins, or lunch boxes, comprised of several small plates of savory food. Entrée options include rogan josh (lamb with onions and ginger), chicken tikka masala, tandoor-cooked boneless chicken, or xacuti chicken curry (cooked in coconut milk with grated coconut, white poppy seeds, and dried red chilies). The tiffin is served on two half-moon-shaped white platters that tuck together. One side holds two bowls with the entrée and raita—yogurt with shredded carrots and cucumbers. The other side carries a large bowl of basmati rice and a side salad—a remarkable value at $8.95. Biryani entrées cost a bit more—$10.95 for Mughlai chicken, $11.95 for lamb, and $12.95 for Bombay shrimp—but these rice casseroles are heaped so high, they easily feed two. Lassi yogurt drinks are tall and refreshing (plain $3.50, mango $4, and strawberry $5). Beverages include house-made ginger tea and basil chai (both $1.95). For dessert, try rasmalai, soft patties of fresh cheese poached in milk ($5.50).
Best bet: Tiffin platters with chicken or lamb ($8.95).
Cheapest thing on menu: Side of basmati rice ($1.95).
Most expensive: Lobster recheiado—a feast platter dressed in a tomato-spice sauce ($25.95).
Spiciest: Ask for the hot, spicy version of any dish.
Healthiest: Hariyali chicken soup or chimney soup (vegetable soup), each $4.50.
Kid-friendly? Kids’ meals, $5.50, include entrée choices such as chicken “lollipops” (drumsticks on a lollipop stick) or lamb kebab. Ice cream for dessert!
Speedy eats? Yes. Warm naan bread comes out after order is taken.
Alcohol? Beer, wine, and soju (rice wine) cocktails.
Credit cards? Visa and Mastercard. —Deborah Grossman