Review: Tiger Masala in Noksapyeong (Indian Food) [CLOSED]

Edit- Tiger Masala has since closed.

If there's a cuisine that I admit I have the least amount of experience in it's definitely Indian food. It was never food that I really ever had growing up and I didn't even realize until I was in high school that the Japanese curry mom would sometimes make for us was very different from Indian curry.

It was only in college and in LA that my taste buds first had their proper enlightenment but it happened so late in my collegiate career that I didn't really get my fill before I came to Korea.

In recent years, Indian food has really taken off in these parts and there's nary a busy area of Seoul that won't have at least one or two Indian joints. Unfortunately, like many other foreign cuisine here, the taste always falls somewhere in the range between mediocre and passable and never much beyond that.

I noticed this Indian place had opened up on the main road of Noksapyeong a few months ago but just had the opportunity to check it out this past weekend.

Actually that night my friends and I had intended to visit a new Thai place that had opened up just 70 meters or so from Tiger Masala but that place wasn't open when we went :(

Nevertheless, a nice curry with some naan sounded like a good choice as well which led us to Tiger Masala.

Pulavs (a kind of Indian fried rice) and curries are the focus here with some interesting makgeolli and beers

The menu

The restaurant highlights which dishes are vegan and which ones are spicy so it's definitely a place you can bring your vegan and spicy  food-averse friends to. 

As a big fan of premium makgeolli I was quite intrigued by the interesting flavors they had on hand (ginger and turmeric) that I suggested to my friends we get a bottle to try. The tiger makgeolli, made with ginger, came highly recommended by the friendly manager and we chose that.

For the curries we went with the staples of Palak and Makhani while I chose Baigan (eggplant) just for kicks. An ordering of naan, turmeric rice and Stuffed Paratha with spinach cheese filling was also put in. 

First to arrive at our table a few minutes later was the bubbling Tiger Makgeolli.

Tiger Makgeolli (Ginger)

You could really smell the ginger in the makgeolli right off the bat which I thought was nice. Taking a sip, I thought the ginger notes made a nice accompaniment to the bubbly and sharp/sweet makgeolli but I think my other friends were more decidedly mixed on their verdict. 

One friend found the ginger taste a bit overpowering (he even grimaced when he took his first sip) while the other friend drank only half a glass and turned down any refills. 

Oh well, more for me :) 

Next came the curries and our naan and rice!

Makhani curry with chicken

Baigan curry

Palak curry with chicken

The makhani and palak were both creamy and nice enough. The chicken pieces were soft and had incorporated their respective tomato and spinach bases so they weren't tough or dry.

Although both the makhani and palak were nice enough, I found them a bit lacking in oomph and pizzazz. They both felt like a certain something was lacking in comparison to some of their counterparts I've had in other places. It was like expecting to be at a rock concert and instead finding an orchestra playing classical music. It was nice but I was expecting some bolder flavors and spices. Perhaps the curries, too, had been tailored to Korean tastes.

I found the baigan curry to be the real flavorful one of the bunch. A lot of ingredients were nestled in among the slightly spicy curry and it was nice and bold without being overpowering and complemented the warm naan quite well. The texture and taste was like a slightly sweet-tasting chili. Despite it being listed as a spicy curry, the spice level was in the barely detectable zone for me.

But between the three of us that night, each of us found a different curry their particular favorite of the bunch and each of us not liking a different curry. For me, the palak was the least impressive. For one friend it was the makhani and the other the baigan. It's all right when there are differences in opinions over a meal in what dishes were one's least favorite but when you can't even get a majority opinion on what dishes stood out, hmmm, I'd say those are some red flags....

There was no unanimous agreement on which curry was the best

The tumeric rice and stuffed paratha were also decent but nothing that was really worth remembering. The stuffed paratha was like an Indian quesadilla of spinach and cheese with a yogurt/sour cream-like sauce for dipping but at 4,000 won I didn't think they were worth the price and not flavorful either. It might be an OK dish to serve finicky kids perhaps.

Turmeric rice

Stuffed Paratha

The prices were rather decent considering it's Indian food in Seoul. The kitchen door was open so you could see the Korean chef girl cooking away and making the fresh naans on a pan. Too bad the naan wasn't from a traditional tandoor oven but that's just getting nitpicky. Poor girl was the only chef so they became a bit backed up at dinner time, though the manager did go back to help her out. 

Overall, like most places in the Noksapyeong area, Tiger Masala seems a decent enough place considering the prices but not anywhere I'd go searching out of the way for. As the place is only a few minutes walk from my house I may stop by for a bite time to time when I'm lazy to go out too far but still wanting my Indian fix. Had I lived further out though, I'm not certain I would frequent the place often. 

The restaurant is not very big (I think it may seat at most 15 or so people?) and the interior decoration is just simple enough so it may not be the best place to bring someone to impress either. 

I feel a restaurant should at least have a few major draws whether (and I would hope in almost all cases) it be the food, the ambiance, the price or something. Aside from the prices, Tiger Masala wasn't that memorable and certainly not the best Indian I've had and even in Seoul at that. 

But it is a new place and they seem to still be in the development stages (they were still developing some menu items such as a vindaloo curry) so who knows, maybe in time the place will grow into something more! 

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4

: From Noksapyeong station, come out exit two and walk straight for about 50 meters or so (past the haebangchon entrance) until you get to the pedestrian overpass bridge. Cross over to the other side and immediately you should see the restaurant with its yellow tiger sign.
Alcohol served, parking unavailable 

Phone number: 070-7563-1411

Note: The restaurant is closed on Mondays