Hidden on 3508 Stine Road you could have missed it, so we had to point it out for you! Masala Grill is a culinary jewel, shining with flavors and colors. Its owners have their clients at heart. And a strong will to take you to unexpected places on your first bite of these childhood recipes.
Edit 2018: Sadly enough, Masala Grill closed and no longer exists. Best of luck to Moiz and family with any forthcoming projects.
The first time I tried Masala Grill, I was stunned by the intensity and fine tuning of the flavors. Then came the second, third, fourth time, and every dish was this perfect blend of ingredients. That’s when I decided I wanted to know more. The owners were kind enough to give some of their precious time, and I sat there with Moiz (who you will hopefully meet soon too) and listened to the Masala Grill family story.
After being born in Texas, Moiz went back to Hyderabad in Pakistan with his parents. He was there raised, schooled, and fed by his mother’s homemade food (significant note!) until he was eighteen and came back to the US, in Bakersfield.
He chose to study musicology at Bakerfield College, and carried this dream of opening a restaurant with him. Perhaps because he was missing his home food sometimes (home food is always the best comforting food right?), and had the best memories of family shared dishes or quick snacks with friends in Hyderabad… which he now wanted to bring to, and share with Bakersfield.
When it clicked
In 2014, Moiz’s parents joined him in Bakersfield, and his mother started cooking again for her son, her husband, and for friends, and then for friends of friends, and so on, and so fourth, and so much so that Moiz now seriously dreamed again for a Pakistani foodie place.
But catering to a known community is different from having a place in the open. He knew his mom’s cooking would be enjoyed by Pakistani fellows, but who else might like it or just dare to try it? They eventually located a vacating restaurant and opened Masala Grill in 2016.
They’ve learned on the go, making adjustments, changing the menu, finally settling it to 7 to 10 items, to be able to prepare it on demand, always with fresh ingredients. Moiz and his wife do all the accounting, managing, purchase and supplies management. Moiz’s father is there, helping with clients, taking orders, and his mom, Fatima, is the only cook in the house, blending her own spices to flavor her cooking and entertain our palates.
Given the popularity of Indian cuisine compared to Pakistani cuisine, and also given the two countries share some cultural aspects, Masala Grill decided to start with very popular Indian dishes on their menu (butter chicken and chicken tikka masala) so you know where you set foot. Or do you? Not being Indian, thus lacking some Indian cuisine heritage and secrets, she composes with her own Pakistani knowledge and style. And she will definitely surprise you with her interpretation of these Indian culinary landmarks.
Today the family would love for some more people outside the Indian and Pakistani communities to come and discover their cooking. Be bold! Give it a try! They would also like to increase the core typical Pakistani delicacies, which are yet to be discovered and enjoyed. In 2018, Masala Grill will still be working on bringing more of Pakistan and elsewhere in their menu, experimenting fusion with American or even Mexican culinary arts.
After a year and a half though, Masala Grill seems to have achieved two dreams in a go : opening a restaurant, and be surrounded with music. The place is an exquisite-fast-food with taste : you will eat or wait for your meal surrounded by LP’s of Indian and Pakistani famous (or unknown to us) artists, and if you are curious, you’ll discover a whole culture behind a home-made meal.
The owner’s choice
If you want to discover a bit of Masala Grill’s culture and inspiration, Moiz urges you to listen to Fathers, by Anushka Shankar, “which can take you to unexpected places”.
We also talked about being an outsider, and Moiz pointed out an A. R Rahman interview, in which the Oscar winner music director explains how one should explore his or her limitations, as they are what makes us unique and are the starting point of our own style.
I wouldn’t be able to recommend any particular dish since I have more than enjoyed everything I’ve tried (meaning the whole menu!). I have to admit, even if I’ve lied for three years in India, even if I’ve spent most of my life in Paris – where one can find some of the best restaurants, at every street corner, Masala Grill is one of a kind in terms of overall experience and balanced flavors. The chicken tikka masala, the samosas, the daal (lentil soup) are amazing. You can also try goat dishes if you are in for some intense meat taste.
Not only the food is amazing here, but the people here are working hard to please you and share a little bit of their love for the country they came from and the one they live in. Plus you get to listen to some beautiful music or take a glimpse at Bollywood movies ;). And be patient : every dish is made just for you, some can take up to 15-20 minutes (you can call to order beforehand), and it is definitely worth the wait.
Masala Grill has closed… but was located on
3508 Stine Rd, Bakersfield
Monday to Sunday: 12pm to 8pm
Phone : (661) 456-0786