As a New Yorker, I am privileged to experience many new dining establishments, each vying for attention in the bustling New York City culinary scene. Yet, while there is a certain allure to being the first to write about a hot new restaurant or share it on social media. There is something truly remarkable about a restaurant that goes beyond the hype and tells a story. Masalawala & Sons, a small space nestled in a decent yet unremarkable stretch of Park Slope, captures that essence perfectly.
From the moment I stepped inside, I could sense that this was more than just a place to eat. Instead, it was an experience that embraced the food, the setting, and the warm and inviting staff. The familiar scents transported me back home to Guyana.
Lovingly Revived Cherished Culinary Memories
Under the skillful guidance of James Beard award-winning chef Chintan Pandya and visionary restaurateur Roni Mazumdar, Masalawala & Sons transport diners to the yesteryears of India. It captures the essence of a bygone era through the eyes of Roni’s father, a 75-year-old immigrant man from Kolkata.
Immersed in nostalgia, they faithfully recreate his cherished culinary memories using time-honored methods, authentic utensils, and treasured family recipes.
The small restaurant with a resourcefully designed, colorful interior showcases the space’s creativity. The space is adorned with shelves, paint, and garlands, creating a charming ambiance. While other restaurants in the city offer Indian homestyle cooking, Masalawala & Sons stands apart by creating an atmosphere that truly makes you feel like you are dining in someone’s home.
Unapologetic Foods, the team behind renowned establishments such as Dhamaka, Semma, and Adda, has carved out a niche by serving hyper-specific regional Indian cuisine. Their commitment to showcasing the nuances of Indian homestyle cooking sets them apart from others in the field. Masalawala & Sons is no exception, as it skillfully interprets its own culture rather than imitating someone else’s.
Prepare to be captivated by the culinary marvel that is Masalawala & Sons. Chintan and Mazumdar have ingeniously curated a menu that transcends regional boundaries and culinary styles. It reflects a deep-rooted love for the dishes created at the Restaurant.
As we embarked on our gastronomic adventure, we savored each section of the menu, starting with the tempting small plates and concluding with a delightful dessert finale.
One of the signature aromas of Bengali cooking is the sinus-awakening fragrance of mustard oil, and here is a delightful surprise. Yogurt, another integral ingredient, appears throughout the dining experience, bookending the journey with its cooling presence.
And Masalawala & Sons unapologetically embraces this tradition. The menu pays homage to many Bengali dishes that are unthinkable without these two ingredients and others, of course. While the restaurant may only cover part of the breadth of Bengali vegetable dishes, it does offer two or three exceptional vegetarian options. In addition, Masalawala’s menu will surprise diners with creative combinations of unique flavors and textures that showcase the culinary artistry of the kitchen.
Must Order Menu Dishes
Our journey at Masalawala & Sons began with the intriguing Dahi Vada. A delightful combination of fermented lentil dumplings, sweet and savory yogurt, and roasted cumin. Now, I must confess, as someone who is not particularly fond of cold dishes or yogurt. I found myself on the fence. However, in the spirit of embracing the entire experience, I allowed Joy [our server] to guide my selections. And let me tell you; it was an amazing decision.
The flavors harmonized seamlessly, creating a well-balanced dish. And adding roasted cumin, one of my favorite spices added a depth that truly elevated the dish’s essence.
Moving on, we ventured into the realm of Sabudana Vada. Featuring tapioca pearls, peanuts, spiced potatoes, and an irresistible yogurt chutney. The combination of textures and flavors in this dish was a delight to the senses, showcasing the culinary prowess of the kitchen.
Next up, we savored the Tasty Pao Bread with Ripon Street Majja. Imagine a decadent melted bone marrow swirled with paya, infused with smoked chili, a squeeze of lemon juice, and topped with shaved boiled eggs.
It was a nostalgic experience that evoked memories of home, reminiscent of dipping bread or roti into a pot of goodness. The flavors danced on the palate, each element contributing to a symphony of taste sensations.
One of the standout dishes was the Daab Chingri. A masterpiece featuring tiger prawns cooked within the confines of a young coconut shell, accompanied by coconut malai and black caraway. The presentation was a feast for the eyes as the dish arrived at our table in the same coconut it was cooked in. Scooping up succulent, tender prawns and young coconut flesh, we discovered a delightful surprise.
Contrary to expectations, the dish was not overly spicy. Instead, it presented a perfect balance of spices and a creamy texture derived from coconut water and milk. It was a buttery, smooth experience that left us craving more. While the dish was recommended to be paired with Ghee Bhat, kalajeera rice infused with gawa ghee [which I tried], I enjoyed it with Luchi. This deep-fried flour flatbread complemented the flavors magnificently.
An Authentic Touch
The use of clay, stainless-steel dishes, and cooking pots added an authentic touch to our dining experience. A prime example of this was the kosha Mangsho. A braised lamb stew that had transformed into a strikingly dark hue reminiscent of squid ink. Expertly utilizing these vessels, Chef Chintan created a visually captivating presentation.
The stew seemed to adhere to the bottom of the pan, giving the impression of being burnt, but in reality, it had been sizzled in its own fat. This resulted in a delightfully dry sauce, and the crispness of the meat’s edges gave a lovely textural contrast. This dish was a wild ride of flavors that enraptured our senses. While it was recommended to be paired with Luchi [which I tried], I found that it paired exceptionally well with the Ghee Bhat, kalajeera rice infused with gawa ghee.
While I personally enjoyed the reversed combinations of both dishes. I encourage you to embark on your own culinary journey and experience the magic of both.
For dessert, the restaurant presents Bhapa Doi. This Bengali magic trick transforms sweetened yogurt and milk into a pudding-like delight without needing eggs, gelatin, or other additives. Its simplicity and restorative qualities make it a perfect ending to a memorable meal.
The Drink Menu
The beverage menu at Masalawala & Sons is a delightful exploration of flavors. The menu offers a selection of six cocktails, two mocktails, beer, and refreshers. The cocktails beautifully incorporate ingredients found in the food itself. From coconut-washed gin to turmeric, saffron, amchur, et cetera.
Among the enticing options, we could not resist trying the Tagore’s Lyric. It features Tequila, Smoked Bhut Jolokia, Roses, and Himalayan Salt. This cocktail was a harmonious blend of bold flavors, with the smoky heat of the Bhut Jolokia pepper balanced by the delicate floral notes and a touch of salinity. A poetic concoction awakened the senses and left us craving another sip.
Equally tempting was the Moon Moon Sen, a popular choice among patrons. This delightful libation combined Vodka with Lemon Verbena, Aloe Vera, Guava, and Cucumber. The result was a refreshing and vibrant cocktail that captivated both the palate and the imagination. The bright citrusy notes paired beautifully with the subtle herbal undertones. While the guava and cucumber added a touch of tropical allure. It was a true celebration of flavors that delighted our taste buds.
A Fusion of Tradition and Innovation
At Masalawala & Sons, the culinary journey is about exquisite flavors, authentic presentation, and attention to detail. Each dish tells a story, combining traditional elements with innovative twists. It is a testament to the culinary artistry and passion of the kitchen team. As we savored the dishes, we could not help but appreciate the remarkable flavors and how they lingered on our palates. The experience left us yearning to return and explore more of the menu’s wonders.
And the beverage menu truly reflects the creativity and attention to detail present in their culinary offerings. Each drink is crafted precisely, showcasing a thoughtful fusion of ingredients that complement the meal perfectly. So whether you prefer a cocktail or a mocktail, you can expect to find a well-curated selection that harmonizes seamlessly with the flavors of the food. It is an invitation to embark on a complete sensory journey that will leave you thoroughly satisfied and craving for more.
Stop by the Pantry Shelves
Before you leave, feast your eyes on the meticulously curated pantry shelves at Masalawala & Sons. From vibrant spices to irresistible chocolates and aromatic coffee. Discover an array of exquisite offerings from the most exciting brands nationwide. Let the alluring aroma and visual spectacle of the pantry shelves transport you to a world of culinary delight and endless possibilities.
It is worth noting that a reservation at Masalawala & Sons can be a challenge due to its popularity. Moreover, tables are released on Resy 30 days in advance at midnight, further emphasizing the demand for this exceptional culinary gem.
Masalawala & Sons provides more than just a meal. It immerses guests in a captivating story that blends exceptional food, inviting surroundings, and passionate staff. Under the guidance of Chef Chintan Pandya and restaurateur Roni Mazumdar, the restaurant stays true to its roots. It delivers a unique interpretation of Bengali cuisine. And this dining experience has undoubtedly ranked among the finest I have had in quite some time.
With its memorable ambiance and a menu that tantalizes the taste buds, Masalawala & Sons is a must-visit for those seeking an authentic and remarkable dining experience. And a special thank you to Ryan for your thorough responses and for addressing all my inquiries.
Dinner Tuesday Through Sunday, 5 to 10 PM.
365 5th Avenue — Park Slope