100 Favorite Dishes: Mysore Thali at Masalaa

A vegetarian sampler platter obscured by an enormous dosa.EXPAND
A vegetarian sampler platter obscured by an enormous dosa.
Mark Antonation

No 28: Mysore Thali at Masalaa
Masalaa is no secret to both fans of great Indian cuisine and vegetarians looking for well-made dishes that go beyond the standard range of tofu-this and seitan-that.
But even for regulars of this Aurora restaurant, the choices can be a little overwhelming because everything on the menu entices, and the aromas rising from passing plates make concentrating on a single selection difficult. That's why a thali — a metal tray loaded with multiple serving bowls — is the perfect solution. Masalaa offers two thali platters: the royal thali and the Mysore thali. While the first gives a well-rounded sampling of rice and curry dishes, the second is our favorite because it's like a South Indian party platter, with several savory selections from the appetizer menu served with vivid chutneys that hit notes of salty, tart, spicy and sweet. 

This thali takes its name from the city of Mysore in South India, and begins with a masala dosa seasoned with a spice blend from that region. The dosa itself, a lentil-flour crepe, is so big that it's folded like a flag into a triangle that drapes over the sides of the metal tray, obscuring the other components on the dish. The fragrant, orange-red masala is smeared within the dosa and tastes great with no accompaniment, but a dunk in the lentil-based sambar or one of two chutneys adds extra layers of flavor.

Moving aside the dosa reveals three more meatless snacks: a dense, dumpling-like idli made with lentil and rice flour; a doughnut-shaped vada made with lentil flour (with a texture more like a hushpuppy); and an uthappam — like a mini rice-flour pizza — topped with tomato and onion. Despite the fact that all of the choices are made from rice or lentil flour, the textures and flavors are unique to each. The dosa combines a crisp exterior and a chewy interior; the uthappam is thicker and slightly spongy like a pancake; and the idli and vada provide the equivalent of a biscuit or cornbread muffin on the plate — perfect for mopping up sauce. Bright notes of tamarind and cilantro from the chutneys balance the earthiness of the lentil in the sambar and all combine in a whirlwind of spices that make Masalaa one of the city's top vegetarian destinations. 

We're counting down the best dishes in the city in advance of Westword's Dish event on September 20 in Sculpture Park at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, where many of our Best of Denver winners — along with other favorites — will congregate to serve up small plates. If there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section, or shoot us an e-mail at cafe@westword.com.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta
No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant
No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class
No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch 
No. 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa
No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's
No.94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle
No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus
No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar
No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria
No. 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co.
No. 89: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo
No. 88: Aburi Sushi at Sushi Den and Izakaya Den
No. 87: Kimchi and Sausage Torta at City, O' City
No. 86: Mar y Tierra Molcajete at Paxia
No. 85: Crispy Pork Spare Ribs at Table Top
No. 84: Chips and Dip at Euclid Hall
No. 83: Chile Relleno Burrito at El Taco de Mexico
No. 82: Scallop Crudo at Stoic & Genuine
No. 81: Ceylon Curry Dosa at Khazana
No. 80: The Lambada Torta at La Torteria
No. 79: Pork Bulgogi at Dae Gee
No. 78: the Pulled Pork Pig Pen Sandwich at Boney's
No. 77: IPA Mac & Cheese at Hops & Pie
No. 76: Chiles en Nogada at Chili Verde
No. 75: Udon Noodle Bowl at Bones
No. 74: Cinnamon Rolls at the Duffeyroll Cafe
No. 73: Smoked Turkey Croque-Madame at Acorn
No. 72: Pickled Lake Michigan Perch at Trillium
No. 71: Oysters at Jax Fish House Glendale
No. 70: Venezuelan Tostadas at Empanada Express Grill
No. 69: Tahini Cauliflower from Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
No. 68: The Ham and Cheese Tartita from Maria Empanada
No. 67: Ronnie's Favorite from Rosenberg's Bagels and Deli
No. 66: Shoo-fly Pie from the Long i Pie Shop
No. 65: Czech Potato Pancakes at Sobo 151
No. 64: Fried Chicken at the Post Brewing Co.
No. 63: Braised Brisket Sandwich at Masterpiece Delicatessen
No. 62: The Scotch Egg from Argyll Whisky Beer
No. 61: Butternut Squash Ravioli at DiFranco's
No. 60: Sesame Balls at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 59: Curry Puffs at Suvipa Thai Food
No. 58: Diavola Pizza at Pizzeria Locale
No. 57: Chorizo Breakfast Stew at DJ's 9th Avenue Cafe
No. 56: The Rare Beast Sandwich at Salt & Grinder
No. 55: 48-Hour Short Ribs at Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery
No. 54: Marrow Bone Brulee at Mercantile Dining & Provision
No. 53: Prawns and Pork Belly at Blackbelly Market
No. 52: Belgian Waffles from Waffle Up
No. 51: Nashville Hot Chicken at Lou's Food Bar
No. 50: Breakfast Burrito from Chickee's Lil Kitchen 
No. 49: Monkfish and Romanesco at TAG
No. 48: Cabeza Tacos at Taqueria El Trompito
No. 47: Pupusas Revueltas at Pupuseria San Salvador
No. 46: Sesame Pockets at Golden Plate II
No. 45: Tuna Mousse at Cart-Driver
No. 44: Tavern Tots at the Highland Tavern  
No. 43: Carne Asada Fries at North County
No. 42: Pho at Wonderbowl
No. 41: Shredded Bison at Tocabe
No. 40: Nachos al Pastor from Tony Guacamole
No. 39: Prosciutto Pop Tart from Bakin' Bakery
No. 38: Ham and Egg Congee at Onefold
No. 37: Lao Sausage at the Asian Cajun
No. 36: Pan Bagnat at Fuel Cafe 
No. 35: Meatloaf Sandwich at City Bakery Cafe
No. 34: Okonomiyaki at Kobe An
No. 33: Farrotto Piccolo at Basta
No. 32: Fried Gizzards at Catfish King
No. 31: My Wife's Doughnuts at Osaka Ramen
No. 30: Foie Gras Bonbons at Milk & Honey Bar Kitchen
No. 29: Gnocchi Maison au Canard Fume at Z Cuisine

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miles
Masalaa

3140 S. Parker Rd.
Aurora, CO 80014

303-755-6272

www.masalaausa.com


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