Neon Vibes and Bold Flavours: Masala Theory's Neo Indian Cuisine

Masala Theory Bondi

Masala Theory has opened up a second branch in Bondi. This popular Neo-Indian restaurant has items that you won't see anywhere else and adaptations of classic dishes all in a bright neon setting with indoor and outdoor seating. There are chicken curry bombs, prawn tinis and an amazing curry made with a fruit you don't often see in curries. But the restaurant is a little hidden away so you do need to know to look out for it. Find out what is a must order at Masala Theory Bondi.

Masala Theory Bondi

It's a sunny Autumn Sunday when Mr NQN and I head to Masala Theory with Teddy and Milo in tow. Masala Theory is located at The Hub on Hall Street in Bondi just under the Adina Bondi hotel. It's located along the O'Brien street entrance on the ground level up the stairs. The restaurant is all about bright jewel tones and colour from the plush hot pink banquettes, neon signs, and polished, shiny gold accents. There is also an undercover outdoor terrace area that is dog friendly so we take a seat there with Teddy and Milo and have a look at the menu. Service is super sweet and friendly.

Masala Theory Bondi

The last time we dined at Masala Theory in Surry Hills was 7 years ago when the restaurant first opened and we met the owner Yashpal Erda. Today the menu has expanded and there's a range of set menus as well as a la carte options with plenty of vegetarian options as well as meat. "There is so much to Indian food and culture which was not reflected in the restaurants here before we started Masala Theory. Majority of the Indian restaurants before we started Masala Theory had the stock standard menu of Butter Chicken, Vindaloo, Rogan Josh etc and to be honest our Indian food is way beyond that and has several food items which people in Sydney were not exposed to," says Yashpal.

Masala Theory Bondi

The decor was also something he focused on to reflect India today, "The current India now and even when we started Masala Theory is very hip, modern, colourful, whimsical and fun, which can be seen in the decor, vibe and ambiance of Masala Theory in both our venues at Surry Hills and in Bondi Beach," explains Yashpal.

Masala Theory Bondi
Mango Panna $16 Mumbai Margarita $24

We start with drinks: the signature cocktail of a Mumbai margarita made with silver tequila, Cointreau, coconut sap, lime and chilli shrub that is a really delicious rendition of a classic margarita. My choice is the non alcoholic Mango panna made with mango puree, ginger beer, saffron, chilli and rock salt. The mango puree is very moreish and has a great flavour to it.

Masala Theory Bondi
Papad and Chutneys $10

I love crunching on pappadums and these are cleverly cut into strips so that they're really easy to dip in the three sauces. There's a mitn relish, pickle yogurt and a mango chutney. It's such an enormous serve that I think that it would be good for a table for 4 as we barely make a dent in the pile of papadums.

Masala Theory Bondi
Chicken Curry Bombs $22

The first thing and their most popular item are the curry bombs or panipuri. Here they come with three different fillings: chicken, vegetarian and vegan and they are gluten and dairy free. Rather than spoon in a flavoured pani puri water, you spoon in some rich, creamy and flavoursome curry into the hole and then pop it into your mouth. I lvoe the textural sensation of this and this is the first time I've tried panipuri with chicken in it as previously I've only had the vegetarian ones. The chicken curry really works in this and we devour all of the curry bombs.

Masala Theory Bondi
Prawn Tini $22

One of the most photogenic entrees is the prawn tini which has four extra large prawns fried in a crispy koliwada batter and they sit on wai wai bhel crunchy and fresh salad. The prawns are so perfectly cooked and seasoned that they don't need anything else added or dipped.

Masala Theory Bondi
Tandoor Saffron Salmon $22

We also order the tandoor saffron salmon that is a modern offering paired with saffron and turmeric laced wasabi thecha (a condiment). I did like this and the salmon is tasty and pretty but I think I really enjoyed the other entrees a bit more.

Masala Theory Bondi
Vindaloo Smashed Chicken $22

Like the vindaloo smashed chicken which is their take on a vindaloo chicken curry. It's gutsy, crunchy and spicy and made with battered vindaloo chicken that is pounded or smashed and then served with chilli jus and vindaloo sauce. It's not overly hot either so good if you like a bit of spice.

Masala Theory Bondi
Lehsuni Strawberry Chicken $32

I'm going to be honest here because I love strawberries but I don't usually love them in savoury dishes at all but I wanted to try this out of curiosity and spoiler: it ends up being my favourite dish of the day. The strawberry chicken curry is their own creation and is made with pistol masala, strawberry compote and cream sauce. This ends up being my favourite curry of all and I can't stop going back to this. The strawberry lends a sweetness to it but it doesn't taste like strawberries. If you love mango chicken curry or butter chicken and creamy curries then I think you might like this.

Yashpal describes how he created it, "I always was curious of creating a curry out of strawberries as usually when I eat strawberry by itself, I used to cut them and sprinkle the chaat masala over it. Also strawberries are eaten with cream and thus was my imagination born to why not create a curry out of strawberry, masala and cream and after several R&D sessions to create the right curry our strawberry curry was born which is made from fresh strawberries, cream and pistol masala. It is a very unique curry which I think is only available at Masala Theory in the whole wide world (as far as my last research speaks)." Pistol masala comes from the city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat in India where Yashpal originally comes from. It is a combination of garam masala, a particular red chilli powder blend and chaat masala and is believed it was created by the Patel community there.

Masala Theory Bondi
Lamb Bunny Chow $32

You don't see bunny chow very much outside of South Africa or South African restaurants but I always enjoy it not just for the novelty of the Curry in hollowed out bread loaf. There is a choice of a lamb or chicken curry in a scooped out bread with sauce generously poured around and inside the wholemeal loaf. The lamb is tender and delicious and it is paired with a small, refreshing chopped salad on the side.

Masala Theory Bondi
Burnt Onion Chicken Kari $32

The burnt onion curry is another best seller and this is made with Dum masala, charred onion and tender chicken pieces. I did find it to have a slightly bitter element to it from the burnt onions. It was inspired by Yashpal's travels, "I was backpacking a couple of years ago in an Indian jungle and was treated to food made by the people living there. Whilst they were cooking, one cooking process which really stood out for me was the way they burnt their onion first on charcoal and then made a paste out of it before mixing it with masalas to create a chicken curry out of it. That was my inspiration to create the burnt onion curry at Masala Theory too where we follow the same process to charcoal the onion first." Dum masala is a slow cooked mix of several masalas with a distinct flavour of cumin and coriander and hails from the Mughal era.

Masala Theory Bondi
Indian Green Curry and Veggo Koftas $28

We thought we would also try a vegan dish since there are so many to choose from on the menu. This is made with homemade masala, tempered spinach and vetiver. The soft vegetable koftas lend this dish a really nice texture and it's a robustly flavoured dish.

Masala Theory Bondi
Mushroom naan $10 and Peshwari Naan $9

I love naan (bread addict here!) and while they have many varieties we go with the classic peshwari naan made with fruit and nuts and the mushroom naan filled with cheese and mushrooms and truffle oil. I especially like the mushroom naan as it soft, downy textured and aromatic.

Masala Theory Bondi
Ghee Kuska Bhat $8

While they have biryanis on the menu, we went with a delicately spiced rice instead flavoured with ghee masala that is the perfect accompaniment to all of the curries.

Masala Theory Bondi

Rose Panna Cotta $14

Whatever you go, you have to save room for dessert. The dessert menu isn't on the regular menu so you may not naturally save room but I still remember their smoked beetroot and buttermilk panna cotta from 7 years it was that good. There's a new panna cotta available and if you love rose and strawberry their panna cotta just hits the spot perfectly. It's sweet but perfectly so and so creamy and wobbly. It's also very generously portioned and try as I might, I cannot finish it but not for lack of wanting.

So tell me Dear Reader, do you like the idea of Neo Indian cuisine or do you go for traditional? Have you ever tried a strawberry curry?

NQN and Mr NQN were guests of Masala Theory but all opinions remain her own.

Masala Theory Bondi

The Hub, 75/79 Hall St, Bondi Beach NSW 2026

Phone: (02) 8971 7719

Monday to Thursday 5–10:30 pm

Friday 5–10 pm

Saturday 12–10 pm

Sunday 12–9:30 pm

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