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Sep 26, 2008 09:43 AM

Masala Mantram in Laval - quick review

Based on recent recommendations here, my jonesing for a decent balti and the fact that it's a 5 minute walk from my place, I decided to try out Masala Mantram - here's how it went down.

It's in a slightly run-down part of Chomedey (right next to the Lachapelle bridge to Cartierville / Montreal), but the space inside is comfortable, warm and tastefully decorated. Really comfy chairs.

The 4 of us - 3 friends and a wife - went in on a Thursday around 6:30pm; the place was deserted except for one table of businessmen, and the friendly owner / manager was there at the front. We were seated immediately and brought menus. I noticed that the prices were ever-so-slightly more expensive than other similar joints I go to, but the choices were more extensive and I found myself looking at dishes I hadn't seen in a long time (or ever) - a good sign.

We ended up getting 3 baltis (2 chicken, one mild and one spicy, and one spicy lamb) and a butter chicken, in addition to palaak paneer, rice, garlic and regular naan. I also had a salty lassi.

The spicy chicken and spicy lamb baltis were very, very good, with rich, savoury sauces and a more than respectable spiciness level, not "mainstream" spicy. The quality of the lamb itself was top-notch. The mild balti was a bit strange as it was not only less spicy, but seemed to lack some of the other spices that gave the balti sauce its deep aroma. It was still good though. The butter chicken was great, although slightly sweeter and thinner than I personally prefer (though the friend and his wife loved it). My personal favorite butter chicken in Montreal (or Laval ;) )is Tandoori Xpress closely followed by Bombay Mahal, but this would come in right behind them (although I've yet to try some of the other places mentioned in here, like Shahi palace). The palaak paneer was fantastically rich and as good as I'd had anywhere.

As for the naan, it was slightly hit and miss. I almost never get garlic naan (I prefer regular), but this time I got the garlic and was glad I did - it was very soft, fluffy and perfectly charred, and the garlic was not overpowering. Strangely, the regular naan we got seemed to be cut from a different cloth, as it was doughier, heavier and didn't seem to have received the same attention to detail as the garlic naan did. It wasn't bad by any means, just wasn't phenomenal like the garlic one - which is what I expect from my naan. :)

All in all, it was a good experience and I need to go back and try some of the other dishes on the menu (although it will be difficult not to get the balti again, which was probably one of the best I've had outside of Birmingham). I hope the place finds itself a good niche and sticks around for a while - the owner and staff were very friendly. The place still seems rather empty when I'm passing by, although the delivery guys are always going in and out, so maybe that's a brisker business. It's just unfortunate that people in Laval still seem to prefer going to the Scores, Casas Grecques or St-Huberts of the island than spending the same amount of money for a much better meal at an independent family restaurant.


Masala Mantram
3424, boul Cartier O corner Chomedey
LAVAL, Qu├ębec, H7V 1K2

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  1. Great report and it seems to jive with my experiences there. I agree about their butter chicken; it's good but I don't crave it. I find it a bit sweet and underspiced. I have had better luck with the Murgh Makhanwalla which approximates more what we know as butter chicken. The lamb balti though is phenomenal. I worry when I see it being often empty; it would be a shame to lose this place.
    I tried to go to Tandoori Xpress once but they were fully booked and I was too hungry to wait. The environment didn't inspire me, so I never went back but if you say their butter chicken is so great, I will have to check it out.
    BTW, my current butter chicken favorites are 1. Bombay Choupati, 2. Maison Indian Curry, 3.Kuljit (also try their chicken tikka masala, similat to the butter chicken but a more silky sauce and different spicing), 4. Malhi Sweet and 5.Shahi Palace.

    1. My wife and I were there last night (Friday).

      Restaurant is very clean and well maintained. Atmosphere is quiet and perfect for either business lunches or couples looking for peaceful night out.

      Waitress was friendly and very helpful as she took her time answering all of our questions. I couldn't help but notice that several paintings hanging on the walls included topless women, not in sexual positions, but topless just the same (for the record, I'm have nothing against this whatsoever, but some people might take offense to this more so if they come to dine with young children).

      We placed our order of chicken madras, lamb balti with the dish of various perfectly-charred shrimps, chicken and beef. We also ordered a portion of naan and chipati. The order took no longer than 15-20 minutes to recieve despite the fact that the waitress told us that a client had just placed a $400 take-out order a few minutes before we placed ours in.

      The food was spectacular to say the least! The spices used were not over-powering in anyway and the all the main ingredients were fresh and quickly brought smiles to our faces when we took fork-to-mouth. I wasn't too fond about those thin baked pita-like appetizers we got as the cumin hasn't always been my favorite spice. Nevertheless, my wife and I both tried it and left the rest aside. I enjoyed the idea of serving water with a wedge of lemon :)

      Anyhow, the bill came out to $56 including tip. Worth every single penny. Wife and I are thinking of calling it "our place" from now on. No more Scores for us ;)

      1 Reply
      1. re: StellasDad

        "...those thin baked pita-like appetizers... " are papadums.
        It is more expensive than your average indian restaurant but the quality and finesse of the food speaks volume and I agree it is worth it.

      2. I got around to trying Tandoori Xpress. It was OK but I don't know if I will rush back anytime soon. I tried their Mulligatawny soup and it was very good; there were bits of grilled chicken in it (presumably chicken tikka leftovers) which made it different and hearty. The samosa was also good though the accompanying mango chutney was stale; the tamarind chutney was good. I had the butter chicken and although the sauce was silken and the spicing was adequate (it was not spicy but then butter chicken isn't supposed to be), there was an underlying sweetness (probably from ground cashews and/or almonds) that irked me. So, although a decent version, it does not alter my top 5 listings (see below). The buttered naan was excellent and super fluffy. I loved the sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds even though a tad unconventional. The vegetable curry was very bland and uninspired. My DH ordered the tandoori chicken and it was sooo average; actually I think it was yesterday's leftover chicken that they quickly warmed up in a frying pan because the meat was dried out and somewhat tough. Finally, the desert was gulab jamun and it was heavenly. I am not usually a fan of this type of desert but this one was excellent. I must also mention how poor the service was: the waitress was not in a good mood and made you feel like you were bothering her. I certainly don't go to indian restos expecting top notch service but this bordered on rudeness.
        So maybe I won't be rushing back but I certainly would not mind a mini take-out meal of their mulligatawny soup, naan and gulab jamun.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hungryann

          I got to be honest when I say this... since I've tried Masala Mantram, I have not gone back to Tandoori Xpress. Even though Tandoori is just 4 mins from where I live, I rather drive the extra 20 minutes to get Masala Mandram take-out. Not to say that Tandoori does not have some mouth-watering dishes, but I prefer Masala Mantram for their overall customer service and higher quality of indian cuisine as I have never been served leftover chicken as HungryAnn believes. I, too, have been greeted by the unfriendly hostess in the past and it was unacceptable.

          Anyhow, I just called Masala Mantram for take out as I've ben having a craving for their lamb curry all week long. To my dismay, they only open at 5pm on Sunday and Saturdays ;(

          1. re: StellasDad

            I am so glad you are a fan of MM. I secretly worry that they don't have enough business and will be forced to close and I will lose this unique place that is so close to me.
            What are the "mouth-watering dishes" at TX?

        2. We're heading to Montreal for 10 days starting this weekend, and as a foodie, I love all the different options Montreal offers. We're from the Pennsylvania Dutch area, very plain cooking with not much seasoning. Anyway, I'd love to try Masala Mantram, but I have about 0 tolerance for hot spicy foods. My wife loves it as hot as it comes, but not me. Would they have anything for me other than the Butter Chicken? Is the Lamb Curry available without the heat?

          14 Replies
          1. re: UnConundrum

            I suggest discussing the menu with your waiter, they can suggest dishes that are not spicy or barely so. As a rule in Indian food, stay away from Madras, Vindaloo and curries if you do not like spicy. Butter chicken and any korma dish are usually safe.

            1. re: UnConundrum

              Hi UC - just wondering, will you have a car when you're here? Just a heads-up that the restaurant in question is up in Laval, one island north of Montreal, and might be a bit tricky - though probably not impossible - to get to by public transit. :-)

              1. re: kpzoo

                Yep :) We came to Montreal on our honeymoon, and almost every year since :) My son is a McGill grad :) We live near Philadelphia, but come to Montreal to enjoy the restaurants, usually twice a year. I especially enjoy going to the different neighborhoods, and different ethnic foods. Really wish I could take the heat, but I always have to be careful. Reason I asked here is that sometimes what the wait staff thinks is mild is not consistent with my definition, especially in smaller family run restaurants. They're not misleading, just live with hotter foods and sometimes don't understand my limitations.

                1. re: UnConundrum

                  Ah - if you'll have a car and like exploring off-the-beaten path places, you might also want to check out Shahi Palace in Pierrefonds out in the West Island - they even ask specifically if you want things mild, medium or hot. And the food is fab, fab, fab. :-)


                  1. re: kpzoo

                    I was thinking of that place too :) There used to be a place that had some former employees of La Queue de Cheval out on Sources (or right off it) near 40 I believe that used to have a wonderful veal chop with apples and caramelized onions.... Was a favorite of my son's, but I think they changed hands at one point, and stopped offering the chop. That said, I don't enjoy the highways around Montreal when you're not 100% certain where you're going or familiar with the roads... Something about the end of DeCarie that just never clicks in my dense head.

              2. re: UnConundrum

                The owner at Masala Mantram is always around and he will happily take back the dish and whip up a new one if it's too spicy. Don't worry, he will take care of you!

                1. re: hungryann

                  I agree 100 percent with HungryAnn's statement "... he will happily take back the dish and whip up a new one if its too spicy." Thats what customer service is all about.

                  As far as I know they have one waiter and one waitress. They are both very helpful. The waiter's name is Mintoo and is very friendly and is always ready to have a conversation.

                  I have tried they're lamb curry and fell in love with it right away! It is NOT spicy to start of with so I now ask the owner to make it as hot as I can get it. YUM!

                  No need to worry HungryAnn... as long as Masala Mantram has clients such as you and I that appreciate quality indian cuisine, they'll be around for awhile. As for my wife, she wishes to reserve our visits to Masala Mantram only for "date night". With both of us working, a 3 year old daughter to raise and a new puppy, date night doesn't come as often as we would hope... lol. Don't tell my wife, but they do take out too - SHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ;)

                  As for Shahi Palace, I must pay them a visit next time I'm in DDO.

                  1. re: StellasDad

                    I have to admit, Hungryann, that I hadn't tried most of the dishes you mentioned, including the Mulligatawny, the samosas and the chutneys.

                    On the other hand, I am a *huge* fan of the Butter Chicken there, and it is still my favorite. It's actually very similar to the one at Bombay Mahal, but I find it somewhat richer and tastier. I like the sweetness and I feel that it's a necessary part of the butter chicken. On the other hand, I have some friends who would agree with you on that. At least we're fortunate enough to be able to get whichever kind we want!

                    I did have the vegetable curry there, and I admit that it's not one of the place's best dishes. The naan, like you said, is fabulous. I've never had bad Tandoori chicken there either, or a problem with yesterday's leftovers - and I'm quite picky about that stuff.

                    As for the service, I've always had a warm welcome there, though I've been a regular for ever. However, I haven't ever heard any of my friends complain about the service there on their first visits. Which hostess did you have, the petite young Afghan girl, or the middle aged lady?

                    I will agree that service at Masala Mantram is great, though, and the owner is super-friendly and helpful (much like the one at Shahi Palace).

                    StellasDad, I think we are crossing paths quite often, because I still drive the 15 minutes to TX despite living 2 minutes from MM!

                    1. re: stevenmansour

                      ''Which hostess did you have''? the young Afghan girl

                      1. re: stevenmansour

                        Steven: I live just off Notre Dame De Fatima. So let me get this straight... you prefer TX over MM? How so?

                        HungryAnn: No, I've never had the young Afghan girl wait on us. I've had the french woman and Minto (owner's friend) though. Never even knew there was an waitress besides the two I just mentioned.

                        I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of MM awhile back. Young guy. Seems shy... lol. He's name is Biboo (please forgive my spelling but thats how he pronounced it). I mentioned this Chowhound thread to him and he thanked me. The whole place knows me there by my first name now... I feel like Norm from Cheers - HAHAAHAA!

                        I gotta tell you that once I find a restaurant I truly like, I stick to it and I do my best to not sway off elsewhere. The staff at MM have always treated me and my wife with great respect and their indian cuisine has never left us regretting our visit.

                        1. re: StellasDad

                          SD - I'm near Daniel-Johnson and Cartier, very close to MM. For most of the dishes I prefer, I still like the variations at TX - butter chicken, tandoori vegetables, palaak paneer, korma, etc.

                          I love the balti at MM (which TX doesn't carry), their garlic naan, as well as some other items they do particularly well. One thing's for sure - I feel pretty lucky to live in between these two places so that I can have the best of both worlds. :)

                          Now that I've tried Moti Mehal (and Shahi Palace) recently, my short-list for great Indian and Pakistani food is getting not so short.

                          1. re: stevenmansour

                            I just called MM to place my order for take-out. Person on the phone tells me that Masala Mantram has been sold and is now known as Tandoori Palace.. same owner(s) as Tandoori Xpress on Concorde Blvd. The entire MM menu has been dropped and they no longer carry the items I once loved so much.

                            After I wipe away these tears, I shall have to find yet another fine indian restaurant to satisy my hunger for yummy butter chicken, spicy curry lamb and Palek beef...

                            Farewell Masala Mantram. You'll be missed.

                            1. re: StellasDad

                              That's horrible news and I feel guilty because I had been thinking about them in the past few weeks: how I haven't been in a few months and was wondering if they're doing well given the current economic climate. I was planning on ordering food from them for an upcoming work event. Unfortunately, I am too late :(. What a huge loss! Tandoor Xpress is nowhere near as good as MM was. I think it's downfall was that the prices were a bit high for the area. There was not enough clientele to sustain such a 'high end' dining experience on a regular basis. What a pity.

                              1. re: hungryann

                                I checked and sure enough MM is no more and Tandoor Palace's menu is identical to Tandoor Xpress. How depressing!