On September 15, Masalawala will open its doors as one of New York’s most anticipated restaurants this year. And when you eat there, you can also buy the ingredients.
Chef and co-owner Chintan Pandya will serve dishes from Kolkata, as well as his under-the-radar specialties all over India. On the shelves that line a wall of the restaurant, in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, will be spices and other products from small producers.
These will be premium, freshly packaged items in small batches, so ingredients like cinnamon and coriander seeds won’t stay in pantries long past their peak.
“In the 70s and 80s in India, it was like this: small traders measured things and handed them to you,” says Roni Mazumdar, co-founder with Pandya of restaurant group Unapologetic Foods.
Over the past two years, the couple have opened some of the city’s fastest growing spots, including the busy and flavorful Dhamaka Restaurant on the Lower East Side, which made slow-roasted Rajasthani rabbit the dish the most coveted in town. Their most recent spot, the Rowdy Rooster fried chicken sandwich storefront in the East Village, set the town’s collective mouths on fire.
With Masalawala, Unapologetic Foods is making its first foray into packaged goods and food products, which the pair have seen demand for and plan to expand in the future. “There’s room for this concept in every neighborhood in New York City, and beyond,” Mazumdar says.
Masalawala, which means “spice merchant”, is the reboot of a Lower East Side restaurant that closed last year when its lease expired after a decade. A few dishes from its first menu will be relaunched, such as the beetroot and the banana flower cutlet.
Other dishes that Pandya will serve include daab chingri, a bengali prawn curry cooked then served in a tender young coconut. It will also offer a few chicken dishes, such as Kashmiri-style Yakhni Pulaoa pilaf made with long grain basmati rice cooked in a broth infused with fennel, ginger and garlic.
On the menu will also be saoji chicken, a fiercely spicy dish from the Vidarbha region of central India, is a meat-based cuisine the chef has taken an interest in. Mazumdar’s father, Satyen, will be the manager.
For starters, Masalawala’s products will all be shelf-stable. In the future, the couple plans to sell prepared meals, including the exceptional paneer from Pandya, which is served in Dhamaka. They source products from spice importers Diaspora Co. and Burlap & Barrel, and chocolates from vegan bar makers (and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alum) Elements Truffles.
Opposite the grocery store is a white brick wall adorned with a bold and colorful mural of the Hindi word for ‘spice’. The full-service full bar area seats 30 inside and about 30 in the courtyard. It will be open all day, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Whether or not it becomes the Eataly of the South Asian food world, Mazumdar sees Masalawala as a chance to showcase the entrepreneurs who represent the region and expand the community they represent so strongly.
“It will be a one-day experience,” he says. “You can come shopping or eat.”
“Or both,” Pandya replies.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)