Closed Tuesdays. M-Th 11:30 AM - 3:30, 5:30 - 9:30 PM; F-Sa 11:30 AM - 3:30 PM, 5:30 - 10:30 PM; Su 12 PM - 3:30 PM, 5:30 - 9:00 PM
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Updated September 2017
For years, Myilai Masala has been not only my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the area, but also one of my favorite Indian restaurants. That’s saying a lot because 1) there’s a lot of decent Indian restaurants in Mercer County 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 Wednesdays. At it’s new location, Myilai Masala is better than ever.
Mylai Masala focuses principally on the cuisine of Tamil Nadu (a state located along the southern tip of India, on the east coast), though (if you enjoy their buffets) you’ll find vegetarian recipes from all over India, and even Indo-Chinese dishes, sprinkled in. If you’ve never experienced the vegetarian 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). Mughali is from NW India and Pakistan.
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 originally, and still does, was the preparation of the vegetarian curries. There’s an extensive selection and over the years I’ve sampled (literally) dozens of different dishes on the menu. They are usually 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. In any given meal each curry will deliver a different, but complementary, flavor profile; something that only the best Indian restaurants deliver consistently.
The midday meal is a buffet which is a great bargain, especially during the week. 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 Fridays which seems to be their busiest lunch day. And the actual dishes rotate throughout the week and seasonally, so you can go back frequently without eating the same meal twice. The weekend buffet has an even greater selection of foods, but is more expensive. (BTW, for about a year, the restaurant experimented with offering one or two “meat” dishes at the buffet. Recently they’ve discontinued the practice, Myilai Masala is strictly vegetarian again).
Dosa night on Wednesdays 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.
BTW, Myilai Masala also does catering, where they bring a portable grill to your back yard and make Dosas and Uttapams 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. (Special thanks to Dina for suggesting this restaurant).