Restaurant of the Week: Masala Bowl

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Masala Bowl, 4200 Chino Hills Parkway, Chino Hills.

Indian food is still a mystery to most of America, unlike many other ethnic cuisines. Masala Bowl is a small chain — locations in Irvine, Tustin, Chino Hills and Plano, Texas, with more coming — that attempts to remedy that by offering a simplified menu and walk-up service.

The Chino Hills location is in the Chino Hills Marketplace, a sprawling shopping center just off the 71 Freeway. Inside there’s a flat screen TV with Indian music videos and a few decorative touches, but mostly it’s the standard exposed-pipe, no-frills interior.

The woman at the counter (who was Indian) explained the menu. They have tandoori-cooked dishes and wraps, but the primary entree is curry. There are seven curries, from mild to spicy, and eight meats or vegetables, meaning 56 possible combinations.

I got lamb tikka masala ($7.49 on its own), which is chunks of lamb in a creamy tomato sauce. It arrived at my table in a plastic bowl with basmati rice. Pretty good stuff. I got the meal as a combo ($9.48) with a soda and samosa bites ($1.19 on its own), crispy pockets filled with potatoes. I also ordered garlic naan ($2.49) and bhel ($3.79), a puffed rice mixture with chopped onions and tomatoes.

The bhel was interesting, a sort of dry, crispy salad, but perhaps an acquired taste. The samosa bites were just okay. I couldn’t finish all this, so lids were brought for the two bowls, which were easily portable.

Well, Masala Bowl is no Haandi, but it’s not meant to be. As a low-priced, casual introduction to Indian food, it’s worth a visit. I noticed another couple of restaurants in the Marketplace I hadn’t tried and another one across the street when I exited the parking lot onto Pipeline, which means I’m already looking forward to my next excuse to head to Chino Hills.

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  • Doug from Chino Hills

    Hey, that’s walking distance from my house! Once again. You once talked about something else that was walking distance from my house, but I forget what. Anyway, my wife and I have eaten here (actually ordered out) twice and agree with your summation. A suggestion for your next trip down our way: Tamarind, a more upscale Indian place in the Chino Spectrum, over there by Starbucks, right next to where the Thomas Kinkade Gallery used to be. Unless that’s still there? I should do more research before I start to type these comments.

    [Never heard of Tamarind but will add it to my to-do (to-eat?) list. Now you've got me wondering what else I once wrote about that was within walking distance of your house. Might depend on how far you can walk. Did I wax eloquent about the stop sign at the corner? More likely, it was when I wrote about the Thai restaurant, Swasdee, across the street from Masala Bowl. -- DA]

  • andrea

    tamarind i believe is still there. it is a combination of Indian and Pakistani. kind of ironic actually. masala bowl recently changed names. I believe the Indian woman mention in your original post is now the owner. it’s now called Spice 5. i haven’t been in there but i expect the food to still be good and she’s still there. my fav dish is the chicken tikka masala and garlic naan.

    [Thanks for the update, Andrea. -- DA]