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.