Saturday, December 27, 2014

MasalaCraft - Santa Ana

As far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as a bad Indian take-out joint in OC. Yes, some are better than others. Heck, my Indian friends and even some of my white friends have dismissed Natraj Tandoori in Irvine as the lowest common denominator--the Indian take-out equivalent of Panda Express. But I still like it because I happen to like Panda Express, and Natraj was the place that introduced me to Indian food back in college--it was cheap enough for a student and there was always chicken tikka masala, a dish that I didn't know at the time was actually British.

But when I graduated from college I also graduated from Natraj, eventually moving on to the wonderful lunch buffets at Vishnu, India Kitchen, and Haveli for spice-ladened meals eaten in gut-busting portions. And then I eventually made the pilgrimage to Artesia's Little India, where the Gujarati thalis of Rajdhani opened my eyes (and also my palate) to the complexities of a cuisine I was only beginning to appreciate. If you haven't tried Rajdhani, you must do so, post haste! And no, there won't be a trace of tikka masala near the place.

When I don't want to overstuff myself or can't go to Artesia, there's Santa Ana's MasalaCraft--an Indian take-out joint to rule them all. The parking is atrocious at lunchtime, but the combo plates ($7 for a 2-item) is one of the best and freshest I've had in a long time. And there's the part that it's served in portions that might as well as be two trips to the buffet line.

One distinguishing trademark of MasalaCraft is actually the naan, the Indian flatbread that's made so tender here it tears like wetted tissue. Across the brown mottled surface, you also see a sprinkling of spices including sauf (which is what Indians call fennel seeds) for more flavor per square inch than some pizzas have in a square foot. The bread is, of course, perfect for dipping and sopping up all of the chicken tikka masala, because, let's face it, authentic or not, your ordering the chicken tikka masala.

2 Hutton Centre Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92707
(714) 696-6272

"What Happens To Me During The Holidays" Cartoon


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