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Shakin' Bacon

Masalaa makes good food that happens to be good for you.

It's not often that a fellow like myself -- a dedicated carnivore, shameless bacon addict, fan of all things larded, bloody and fat-spackled -- goes looking for health food. Ten cups of coffee a day, taken as preventative medicine against potential lifestyle complications like sleep; ice cream for breakfast, Cuban sandwiches and mashed-potato burritos for lunch -- this is what I usually consume, and on nights when I'm not on the job, I'm perfectly content to curl up on the couch with a bar of black Russian Korkunov chocolate and a bag of Lay's barbecue potato chips and call that dinner.

Like most galley brats (both current and former), I have a deep-seated distrust and cultivated loathing for anyone not willing, when presented with the opportunity, to eat the heart -- or liver or brain or penis -- right out of any animal. I am the only man I know who considers the excuse of a crise de foie (a beautiful French term that essentially translates to "liver emergency" and means that one's vital machinery has become so gummed up by recent excesses that moving from bed might actually cause the sufferer to burst) an acceptable reason for calling in sick to work. And I firmly believe that much of the religious strife and acrimony in the world stems from the fact that certain people out there are denied the joys of eating bacon by their faith, while others can have all the bacon they want -- except on Fridays. Perhaps that's a simplistic view of thousands of years of zealotry and holy warfare, but if I wanted bacon but was allowed no bacon and saw somebody walking down the street happily eating bacon with both hands, I, too, might be tempted to blow up his car.

Still, after the excesses of my last couple of weeks (see Bite Me, page 50, for details), I was feeling a bit spent, fat, bloody-rare and larded myself. It occurred to me that fourteen solid days of travel, huge dinners, fried foods, cream sauces, buckets of gravy and lots of liquor had finally begun to catch up with me. My system clearly needed a break, and because fasting is for mystics and two-dimensional Hollywood ingenues, my favorite method for cleaning the pipes (as it were) is to go vegetarian. Temporarily.

To your health: Masalaa's dosa is good for what ails 
you.
Mark Manger
To your health: Masalaa's dosa is good for what ails you.

Location Info

Map

Masalaa

3140 S. Parker Road
Aurora, CO 80014

Category: Restaurant > Buffet

Region: Aurora

Details

3140 South Parker Road, Aurora, 303- 755-6272. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon-10:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Onion bajji: $3.95
Mysore bonda: $3.95
Aloo bonda: $3.95
Paneer pakoda: $3.95
Dosa: $6.95
Kashmiri uthappam: $7.95
Idly: $3.95
Avial: $7.95
Aloo mutter: $7.95
Channa masala: $7.95
Biryani: $5.95
Thayir sadam: $4.95

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Like for a day.

I know that sounds drastic, but it's not like I ran right out to some hippie factory for a sprout burger and a steaming plate of not-loaf. That shit offends me to the core, and I have it on good authority that there's a secret provision in the Patriot Act that allows Dick Cheney to personally toss the houses of anyone caught buying, selling or consuming tofurkey recreationally. No, when the need to do something nice for my body strikes, I head for a restaurant that presents vegetarianism not as a technique of pleasure denial, but as a vital, vibrant cuisine in its own right -- a restaurant that doesn't try to sneak around the fact that there's no meat in the canon, but instead celebrates the humble roots and beans and tubers of the world as things of sublime, resplendent deliciousness. Unsurprisingly, most of these are ethnic restaurants. Unsurprisingly again, they tend to attract a predominantly ethnic crowd. Unsurprisingliest of all, they are often affiliated in one way or another with a religion, because seriously, what other than the wrath of an angry, carrot-eating God could keep people away from the glories of bacon, smoked and sizzling in the pan?

I'm not sure what religion is observed at Masalaa, which has been open and operating seven days a week for five years in a crooked Aurora strip mall (there's a second, newer location in Boulder), but I'm ready to look at some brochures. In this place, one of the few I've found that offers both gluten-free cooking and Jain-friendly menu options, worlds are forever colliding. Tables full of young Indian men and beautiful girls in saris sit beside imperious dowagers who pick at their dosa like birds. Families that all seem to know each other join and split their tables like molecules, arranging and rearranging themselves as plates arrive and conversations shift. Girls share single plates of onion bajji (Indian onion rings in fried chickpea batter) and gossip in a mishmash of Hindi and English, while oh-so-very American teenagers in thick-framed black Buddy Holly specs, Korn T-shirts and plaid golf pants drink perfect sour-sweet mango lassis out of soda-shop fountain glasses and eat Kashmiri uthappam lentil pancakes topped with dried fruits.

And then there's me, slouching through the middle of it all, taking a table in the back of a dining room that seems almost naked for its lack of decoration. Unlike many Indian restaurants in Denver, Masalaa isn't a museum; it doesn't cram every inch of available space with pictures of holy mountains, lithographs from the Bhagavad Gita, tea sets, pipes, copper plates and sculptures of elephants in wedding finery. The walls here are earth-toned and nearly bare. Accent lights hang from a double strand of bare wire running the length of the ceiling, and a simple wooden arch separates the lobby from the main dining room. Skreeling Indian pop music rides the fragrant air, and customers sometimes sing along quietly, mouthing words in yet another language that I will never learn to speak.

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