Masala Magic - a gem in Lancaster.
Opening last Summer as a market with a take-out counter, Masala Magic only recently added tables for sit down dining. The restaurant specializes in Southern Indian fare. In this regard it offers a great counterpoint to the well established Malhi's Restaurant, which leans much more heavily to Punjabi or Northern Indian style (though Southern Indian items turn up on occasion in the lunch buffet at the Malhi's in Palmdale and Masala Magic does offer some Northern style items).
If your first thought is "vegetarian?...blah!", give it a try. First, apparently they offer some mutton or chicken curry on occasional weekends. Do keep in mind, this food is much spicier than most of Malhi's buffet items. It is hardly weak or bland. This is the kind of vegetarian that even Anthony Bourdain praised (matter of fact, in his visit to an Indian place in NYC, most of the items shown there have been found at Masala Magic, either from their counter or from the market section. The main exception being dosas, which the owner tells me they are planning on making soon).
So far, I've just done the take-out (several times), so the review is based on those offerings.
Offering eight combos ranging from $2.99 to $7.99, it also ranks as one of the best bargains in the Antelope Valley. The #4 ($7.99) offers three items - either a dal or chole with choice of two veggie items, a chapatti, samosa, pickles, raita and a dessert (either rasmalai or gulab jamun) and a beverage (chai tea or strawberry drink, sometimes lemonade). Portions are good sized. I've usually gotten two meals out of the #4.
The only disappointment is that sometimes they don't seem to include the raita or dessert or offer some of the items they did when they first opened. This is a minor quibble though, especially at the prices. One item listed on original flyers as a beverage choice that seems to have gone missing is jaljeera.
The counter features a dal, a chole and six different veggie dishes to choose from. The veggie dishes have ranged widely - gobi aloo (potatoes & cauliflower), saag (spinach), okra, gram dumplings, bell peppers & potatoes, a couple of different cabbage dishes...too many to name. Every time I've visited, there has always been 1 or 2 dishes that I have not seen there before.
Lassis are also available, mango, sweet or salt, though not as part of the combos. A wide range of Indian sweets (mithais) are also available in a counter next to the take-out counter.
The adjacent market offers a wide range of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan packaged and frozen foods, snack items, fresh produce, spices...you name it, with a lot of Gujarati and Udupi items. Videos, music and clothing are also available. Not only is this the most diverse Indian restaurant in the AV, it's also the best Indian market.
From what I've read and seen, Masala Magic is comparable to a highly regarded Indian take-out/market in Culver City. Any real foodies in the AV should appreciate that and hopefully take advantage of this. There are not many places out here comparable to those in the Los Angeles area. If you want something different or are looking for a regular destination, Masala Magic fills the bill.
Thank you for this recommendation and reminder of why I love Chowhound. I shamed the family off the couch and we hit the road to the Antelope Valley to check out wildflowers and built up a powerful appetite, as with just about every other activity I engage in, sitting in the car. I qualified the review here with my prejudiced low expectations as to the quality of cuisine available in Lancaster and am happy now to confess my folly. Masala Magic is sort of a small version of India’s Sweets and Spices, a concrete floor, fluorescent lit market with all manner of imports and an adjacent small restaurant designed buffet style. Despite the distinct non-swankiness, this is one of those meals we will all remember for life. There are a few places in Los Angeles, and a couple I have visited while traveling , where the restaurant experience morphs into something more akin to being a guest at someone’s home.
The owners, Payal and Willy are a charming young couple. Payal does all the cooking and she says essentially she identifies herself as a housewife and cooks everyday based on what she feels like and what’s available. Because the food is different every day she insisted we sample everything before ordering. We were given a tiny silver bowl and proffered a generous taste of all of her preparations which included lentil daal and curries of potato, mustard greens, garbanzo beans, cabbage, and a meat substitute prepared with graham flour. We made our choices and for $6.99 we received a good samosa, sweet lassi, chai tea, two curries, rice, raita, pickle and daal. With the except of the graham flour the ingredients and preparations appeared similar to the Punjabi cuisine we are accustomed to but the spicing was mind blowingly distinctive, much more complex, nuanced and vaguely floral. Payal and Willy are from Rajasthan and say that Southern Indian food is not much represented in Southern California. Apparently there’s a substantial Indian population in the Lancaster area, many in the medical and engineering professions. Payal and Willy are proud though that much of their clientele is Caucasian and that many of their frequent repeat customers had never tried Indian food before eating at Masala Magic.
The showed off a pretty little side room, freshly painted with a charming mural by one of their daughters. The kids are very at home at the restaurant and were intrigued by our strapping teenage boys. The annex is fitted with low tables and pillows to resemble an ashram. By reservation on Friday and Saturday nights Payal and Willy are hosting a special all you can eat dinner. Each setting is limited to ten customers who will sit on the floor. The meals will be eaten in the traditional manner, by hand. I will add that no forks were available in the regular restaurant either, only plastic spoons. My only other tiny issue was that the meal was served with roti which I found rather dry compared to naan or chapati. Nevertheless, discovering destination dining in Lancaster was a wonderful surprise and we’ll certainly return, even if the wildflowers aren’t in bloom.