Miami has an exceptional new option for Indian cuisine thanks to Hemant Mathur , the first Indian chef in the US to get a Michelin star. Owner and Executive Chef Mathur of widely acclaimed Devi and Tamarind restaurants in New York City, has brought his contemporary Indian cuisine to Midtown Miami. I’ve been to India numerous times, and say without hesitation that Maska is the best Indian restaurant in Miami. It also has an adjacent eatery for Indian street food, takeout and eatin.
You’re probably asking what makes it contemporary and what are the keys to his culinary success. He attributes this to the high quality of his ingredients – finest meats, local seafood, freshly ground spices, presentation, and an accomplished pastry chef who happens to be his wife.
Chef Mathur is well known for his tandoori dishes cooked in a clay oven. He has been called the “Yo Yo Ma” of tandoor cooking. His secret? His blend of spices for the marinade, and his deft touch with the cooking temperatures and length of cooking . And sure enough, the Malai chicken and Chef Henant’s lamb chops were tender, flavorful and cooked to perfection.
The menu is divided into small plates, from the tandoor, kulchas (stuffed breads), large plates, sides and accompaniments. There’s a separate dessert menu.
We started the evening with one of their signature cocktails, a take on an old fashioned called ‘Old Phasion”. A combination of bourbon, Amaro, cardamom, coconut water, syrup, and bitters, it’s sweet with a twinge of bitter taste, a perfect complement to Indian flavors.
For a starter we opted for one of their signature dishes, the Lucknowi Galauti Kebab, kneaded lamb balls, saffron paratha bread, and cilantro aioli. The complex flavors, adeptly orchestrated, transported me to India. From there it was tandoor choices described above. Next time I’d like to try the rosemary paneer (white cheese) and the king oyster mushroom.
It was a treat to find the kulchas, stuffed breads, on the menu, something unusual in Miami’s Indian restaurants. And here there are no fewer than six varieties of the puffed breads, ranging from mushoroom and truffle to chili crab and paneer tikka. We were hard pressed to choose from among the large plates, so enticing was the selection, but Mr. W loves goat so we opted for the smoked Lal Maas, Rajasthani goat curry with cucumber salad and paratha bread. It was spicy, tender, and bursting with flavor, with just the right amount of spicy zip. Next time we’ll try the Goan fish curry, the vegetarian Kaddu Ke Kofte (summer squash dumpling, onion tomato sauce and cumin rice) and the Kashmiri Short Ribs.
Like Indian breads? They offer an accompaniment that includes basmati rice, butter naan, garlic naan, roti and paratha for $5.
Our “sweet ending” as they call it was the jalebi rabri, twice fried dough that was almost too pretty to eat.
Like the cuisine, the décor is a blend of traditional and contemporary – with Murano glass chandeliers and mirrors mixing with contemporary furniture and lighting fixtures, along with an open kitchen. Choose to dine indoors at the bar or tables, or outdoors.
Prices are very reasonable considering the quality and size of the portions. We found ourselves taking home half of the tandoor dishes and large plates. Starters average in the low teens; tandoor dishes average in the high teens; large plates average in the low 20’s; sides, $8; and desserts, $8 or $9. A glass of wine starts at $12 (5 ounce pour); bottles from $45; cocktails $15 to $18.
Maska also offers brunch and next door, a more casual counterpart for eat in or take out called CHO:TU. It serves authentic, savory street food such as Pav bhaji, Masala Dosa, Chaat, Kheema Pav, Sugarcane Juice and Lassi. It’s open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Maska , 3252 NE 1st Ave, (T. 786- 971-9100).