New York’s hottest restaurant duo, chef Chintan Pandya and restaurateur Roni Mazumdar of acclaimed restaurants Dhamaka and Adda, continue their whirlwind expansion with the highly anticipated reboot of Lower East Side mainstay Masalawala, now reinvented as as a restaurant and retail store in Brooklyn. Masalawala and Sons opens Thursday, September 22 at 365 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Street, Park Slope.
Masalawala 2.0, a revival of Roni and her father Satyen Mazumdar’s first restaurant that operated from 2011 to 2021, aims to bridge the gap between what is eaten in Indian homes and what is served in Indian restaurants. Masalawala’s previous menu, featuring mainstream hits like garlic naan, chicken korma and chicken tikka masala – which Roni dragged himself to put on the menu after countless dinner requests at the Lower East Side restaurant – has been reworked so that more than 60 percent of the new, 24-course menu is pulled straight from the Mazumdars’ dinner table and revamped by Pandya.
“It’s my family,” says Roni. “It’s where I come from. These are dishes that my mum, dad and I eat.
The team brings back sabudana vada, one of Satyen’s usual teatime snacks, which was so little received a decade ago that he took it off the menu after offering it for a month at the previous restaurant.
Pandya has resurrected the dish, with some tweaks, for Masalawala and Sons. He puffed up large white tapioca pearls by rinsing them for 15 minutes and drying them in a muslin cloth for half an hour. He then shaped the pearls into a patty with super-sweet spicy mashed potatoes and crushed peanuts, and fried the batter. The result is a deliberately dosed interplay of textures: crispy on the outside and particularly melting thanks to the potato and pearls on the inside. It is served with Pandya chutney: a fine yogurt broth that is both sweet and savory and tempered with cumin and red pepper.
Macher dim, fish roe curry, is another family favorite that rarely makes it to restaurants. “I would never even have dared to talk about chewing dim [in restaurants] in my life,” says Roni. “But I have it at home probably once a month.”
In Pandya’s interpretation of the dish, he lightly poaches a bag of hilsa fish roe in a mustard seed and tomato curry until it reaches a “silky smooth” consistency in a clay pan. traditional, he said. It is served with a bowl of Gobindobhog rice, a West Bengal state cultivar that is shorter, stickier and nuttier than basmati. Due to egg supply limitations, he only places five to seven orders a day.
The Mazumdars entrusted Pandya with bringing macher dim to life in their restaurant. “Chintan takes such a humble dish and reaches an absolute level of perfection, which I don’t think we’ve been able to achieve in the past,” says Roni.
While the original Masalawala sported modest brown interiors, the new restaurant is artfully welcoming and colorful, from the upholstered stools at the beanbags to the vibrant murals of flowers and the Hindi words for “real tasty shop”, evoking the fact messaging popular in the 1980s in India, according to Roni. The space can accommodate 30 customers inside and another 30 in the backyard.
The retail section on the entire left wall brings diners even closer to the home cooking of the Mazumdars. The team curated a collection of spices like turmeric, cumin and cinnamon from importers Diaspora Co, Burlap & Barrel and Spicewalla. Indian-grown coffee beans and rose and cardamom chocolates from Ministry of Kaapi, Dryft Coffee and Elements Truffles round out the selection.
At Roni and Pandya’s other four restaurants – Dhamaka, Semma, Adda and Rowdy Rooster – they set out to present an unprecedented range and depth of Indian cuisine with the aim of pushing the boundaries of Indian cuisine from restaurants in New York. Along the way, they racked up praise from outlets like Eater, enjoy your foodthe New York Times, and the James Beard Foundation. After Masalawala opens, they will start giving their turn to a new casual kebab shop called Kebabwala, and a reboot of Adda in the East Village.
The reception encouraged them to keep pushing the bar higher with further openings, including at Masalawala. “If we hadn’t had the forerunner of all these restaurants, where we built this kind of connection with the city and with people passing by, I don’t think we would have felt so capable of being so daring. put half of [Masalawala’s] menu there,” says Roni.
Masalawala’s opening hours are 5pm to 10pm, Tuesday to Sunday, until early October, when it will open from 12pm to 10pm.
Caroline Shin is a Queens-raised food journalist and founder of Cooking with Granny YouTube and a series of workshops spotlighting immigrant grandmothers. Follow her on Instagram @kitchenWGranny.