I needed to bring home dinner a few days ago, and I’ve been wanting to try Masala Times for a while now. Our good friends live a block away, and I’ve walked by the tiny restaurant at 194 Bleecker Street (just east of 6th Ave) many times. Masala Times was also featured in a recent Tasting Times (the NY Times food newsletter), which renewed my interest in trying it. Tonight was as good a night as any.

There are only about 5 tables and they specialize in Mumbai street food, which makes Masala Times a good candidate for our Honorary Street Food category – storefronts with few or no tables that serve food generally considered to be street food in their native country.

The few tables in Masala Times

I had 3 people to feed and wanted to try a variety of things from their menu. After asking the owner for his advice and knowing what my family like, I decided on a chicken bhuna (kati) roll, a chicken achari kebab and a chicken tikka masala box.

Click through to find out how our dinner was, and whether Masala Times is worth adding to the NYSF listings and map in the Honorary Street Food category. Here’s a picture to whet your appetite.

chicken achari kebab
chicken achari kebab

As their website says, Masala Times is set up as a tribute to everything Bollywood. In Bollywood lingo, masala refers to ” exaggerated fight sequences, over the top melodrama, uproarious dance moves and all the juicy gossip that surrounds the world’s biggest cinema industry”.

There are oversized quotes from Hollywood and Bollywood movies on the wall, and they want you to “savour our spicy Kebabs and other healthy Indian bbq fare. Chat, gossip, bitch, mingle or do all of the above in a befittingly Bollywood ambience.”

That’s fine for the late nights bar crowds on Bleecker St (they are open until 3am except Fridays and Saturdays, when they are open until 5am!), but I ordered my food and brought it home. I must say, while I was waiting, the smell was awesome!

My dinner choice was the chicken achari kebab ($7, pictured above), which was recommended by the owner. It was grilled chunks of marinated chicken that were nicely charred on the edges and cooked in Indian pickling spices, served over basmati rice, with pickled onions, paratha bread and spicy green chutney.

The chicken was wonderful, and the pickled onions and paratha bread were nice too. The basmati rice had a bunch of spices in it such as cardamom pods, whole cloves, and we even got a cinnamon stick. All these spices were great, but the rice was also a bit saltier than I would have liked. I still finished it, though.

chicken bhuna roll
chicken bhuna roll

The next dish was a chicken bhuna roll ($6) which my wife requested. It had pieces of marinated chicken, red onions and Indian spices in a paratha bread roll. I only had a bite or two of this dish because my wife liked it so much, but it was delicious too. This was spicier than my chicken achari, and just as tasty. It is also easier to eat on the street, if that’s what you need.

inside the chicken bhuna roll
inside the chicken bhuna roll
To get a good cross-section of the dishes at Masala Times, I also wanted to try a “box”, similar in concept to a Japanese box lunch. They have a kebab box, a veg box, a lamb box and a chicken box, which are only available to go.
My daughter opted for a chicken box ($8), of which there were 4 choices – bhuna, vindaloo, saag or tikka masala. She chose tikka masala. The chicken boxes also come with dal, rice, bread and pickled onions.
chicken tikka masala box
chicken tikka masala box
The chicken tikka masala was chunks of tender, grilled chicken in a tomato-based sauce, and it was not spicy. It was a little too tomato-ey for my liking, but my daughter enjoyed it. The rice, bread and pickled onions were the same as in my dish, but the dal (top left in picture) was something new. It was a little thinner than a split pea soup, but made with lentils and quite nicely spiced.
This was an excellent, well-priced meal that’s perfectly appropriate for lunch, dinner or a late-night snack – and I’m happy to add Masala Times to the NYSF Honorary Street Food category and map. We will definitely be ordering from here again. If you go to Masala Times, please let us know in the comments what you had, and how you liked it.



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