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Mirch Masala review, Decatur

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Decatur’s Mirch Masala Indian restaurant can be a mixed experience, depending on when you go. Sunday evenings seem to be the unspoken family nights, when the restaurant becomes a living breathing monster. Grains of basmati rice pellet the dining room floors, thrown by tornadoes of shrieking children. Orders of additional beverages are lost in communication, and the eek factor of the bathroom (men’s at least) is on par with some of Atlanta’s dingiest watering holes.

Review by Gene Lee

Review by Gene Lee

But on other nights I have visited, the restaurant service churns along smoothly, and the sound hums at a level fit for date night.

Atmospheric changes aside, the restaurant’s North Indian cuisine is crave-worthy, if a bit too rich in some dishes due to the kitchen’s liberal use of oil.

Lamb curry ($12.95) is an example of deeply melded flavors consistent with dishes here. Chunks of tender lamb sit in a brown curry gravy aromatic of a little clove, and spicy from ground pepper. I really enjoy swabbing bubbly pieces of naan through the sauce, but its richness doesn’t allow me to move beyond a few bites.

I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t point out that the kitchen’s appetizer of chicken tikka ($9.95) is really good. At other Indian restaurants, when these bright orange chunks of chicken are plucked from the buffet or ordered from the menu (tandoori chicken is the bone-in alternative), I generally expect it to be dry and tough and I’m usually proven right. Mirch Masala’s chicken tikka, however, is consistently fall-apart tender, and a little citrus-flavored from coriander — a popular spice used in Indian cooking.

Chicken tikka (photo by Becky Stein)

Chicken tikka (photo by Becky Stein)

Speaking of buffets, Mirch Masala has one all day seven days a week (lunch $8.95, dinner $10.95 weekdays; $9.95/$11.95 weekends). For the optimal experience, skip it, as puffy naan will go limp and sauceless meats will go dry. The kitchen’s various versions of naan not on the buffet are all worthy, but bullet naan ($2.50) is my favorite. Minced green chilies speckle the surface of this bread providing a tolerable level of heat; perspiration slowly builds around my crown a couple of bites in.

The chilies reappear in chilli paneer ($8.95), a dish of Indian and Chinese influences, hands down my favorite. Paneer (a mild Indian cheese) chunks the size of sugar cubes are sauteed in ginger, garlic and soy sauce alongside onions and bell pepper. It’s a harmonious union.

I can get past the atmosphere at Mirch Masala when it is a miss rather than hit. The menu is vast with dishes for all palates — vegetarians, carnivores, the spice-averse and the not-so-spice-averse. If you and your family are looking for additional dining options, you should all be able to find agreeable dish combinations here.

MIRCH MASALA
1713 Church St., Decatur, 30033, 404-296-9999

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Food: North Indian cuisine including rice, lamb, chicken and vegetarian dishes with varying degree of spiciness.
Service: Inconsistent, depending on how busy the place is. Communication can be an issue.
Best dishes: Chicken tikka, chilli paneer (spicy cheese stir fry), baigan bharta(roasted crushed eggplant).
Vegetarian selections: A variety of vegetable appetizers, vegetable dishes in curry gravy and rice dishes.
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mondays-Sundays
Children: Yes
Parking: In lot
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise Level: Moderate to high
Patio: No
Takeout: Yes
RatingsKey_3

12 comments Add your comment

Foodgeek

December 17th, 2010
9:32 am

When I’ve had the lunch buffet, they’ve brought me a little basket of fresh naan, but I haven’t been in years. They may have stopped doing that. Good review, Gene. Didn’t know they have the buffet all day, which is unusual. Thanks for the information.

SP

December 17th, 2010
9:57 am

I haven’t had the problems you’ve had at Mirch Masala. And they’ve always brought fresh naan to the table when I’ve done the buffet. I love that place!

Gene Lee

December 17th, 2010
10:12 am

@SP – Generally my issues are atmospheric, and like I said it’s usually limited to Sundays. I really like this place too and will continue to go. I only participated in the lunch buffet once and had naan from their main buffet line so maybe it was a one-off incident. That’s good to know that you usually get fresh baskets. I REALLY love the chilli paneer here.

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Hungry Gringo

December 17th, 2010
12:43 pm

Woot! I’ve been going there ever since my Pakistani roommate at Tech first dragged me to it several years ago. We’ve always got fresh naan, although the waiters look nonplussed at the volume of naan and curry 4-5 college students can put down.

Kev

December 18th, 2010
8:09 am

I usually go to Zyka in the neighborhood.

Why hasn’t anyone started an Indina delivery service? I would use it all the time.

Kev

December 18th, 2010
8:09 am

I meant “Indian”

Will from Decatur

December 18th, 2010
12:20 pm

Does anyone know if the owner/chef at the former MGR Palace in Stone Mountain has opened another restaurant? MGR Palace closed several months ago. I believe the owner (Ram?) used to be chef at the former Madras Saravana Bhavan on Lawrenceville Highway. Thanks for any help on this.

Will

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mg

December 18th, 2010
3:18 pm

Hello Will from Decatur,
FYI: The owner Ram of former MGR Palace has opened a new restaurant in Decatur:
Madras Woodlands, 2201 Lawrenceville Hyw, suite 101, Decatur GA 30033 phone:404 248 9333

Will from Decatur

December 18th, 2010
3:40 pm

mg-

Great news! Thank you!

Will

Mike in North Decatur

December 19th, 2010
7:23 pm

My wife and I have been going to Mirch Masala for a number of years and have always had excellent food and good service. I just had the buffet for lunch a few weeks ago and my naan was fresh and everything on the buffet was good. I actually got to try a few new things which is good b/c I’m such a picky eater. For anyone liking spicy food then I recommend the Chicken Vindaloo…HEAVEN in a dish.

PS My wife just said we even eat here without a coupon….which in her mind is extravagant!! ; )