By Susan L. Wright
The Daytona Beach dining scene has become a bit more cosmopolitan with the opening of Masala Indian Cuisine at 581 Beville Road in South Daytona.
At least one diner said the restaurant, which opened on the site of the former Bombay Grille, is a notch above any other Indian eatery in the region. In fact, Kaj Oldenberg, a native of Sweden who said he's dined all over the world and is a chef himself, raved recently after his second lunch there, "The food is just terrific, tremendously delicious."
He said the meals he'd eaten there compared with the best Indian restaurants in major cities, such as Boston and New York.
Co-owner and manager Lakshmi Sailu Yaramala (she's known by her middle name, Sailu) said that's because everything they serve is authentic, fresh and cooked with care by her uncle and partner, Reddy Yaramala, who is the chef.
Ms. Yaramala, who came to the U.S. from southern India four years ago, said they specialize in cuisine from the south of her country, a cuisine that features a mix of spices known as masala, hence the name.
The restaurant serves a varied lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. seven days a week, with a selection of meat curries, including such delicacies as chicken saag (boneless chicken cooked with spinach) and butter chicken, and a goat curry. Vegetable dishes include mushroom mutter curry and a garbanzo bean curry.
But the a la carte menu offers a much wider selection.
There are a few Westernized dishes, including a tossed salad and ice cream for dessert, but otherwise the extensive selection is completely authentic Indian cuisine that is surprisingly light and sumptuously varied.
Adventurous diners will definitely want to try the South Indian Specials, including a list of variations on the Dosa, a fermented lentil crepe either plain or with a variety of fillings or the Rava Crispy Dosa, a crepe made with cream of wheat and rice flour, either plain or with sauces and a vegetable curry filling.
Ms. Yaramala said her uncle had owned Indian restaurants in Sacramento, Calif., for several years after coming to the U.S.
She worked in his restaurant for a while, but decided to move to the area recently. Her husband is a medical student, studying at a college in Georgia, and they have a one-year old son.
They had visited the Daytona Beach area and went to the Bombay Grille to eat. She said they talked to the owners of the Bombay Grille afterwards and discovered they were interested in selling the restaurant, including the furnishings.
She's added flowers and a few decorative touches such as pictures, but the décor already had a warm, charming and authentic ambience so they didn't really have to change much at all -- they kept the dark wood, carved back chairs and tables, reminiscent of a colonial past and the crystal chandelier suspended in the center. There's a wood paneled bar offering wine and beer, a limited selection, and a warm color scheme.
A television suspended over the buffet area plays Indian programs with no sound.
Beverages include non-alcoholic treats such as mango juice or mango lassi, described as a refreshing mango drink with yogurt.
The restaurant is cozy and welcoming and there's a party room on one side available for private parties of up to 50 people, with catering menus available.
For more information or a reservation, call (386) 760-4505. Lunch buffet available from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Weekend specials include a dinner buffet from 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.