At 4:45 pm Thursday, Carlos Sevilla and his date, Kriti Shrestha, finally secured a table for two at Masalawala & Sons. It was no easy feat. They’d been trying to snag one since September, when the Indian restaurant — with its Bengali dinner party atmosphere — first opened in a former Park Slope bakery and rapidly became one of the city’s hottest restaurants.
“When it first was about to open, reservations were a month in advance — it was slim pickings,” Park Sloper Sevilla, 37, told The Post. He found himself constantly reloading restaurant reservation site Resy — to no avail.
Dining at Masalawala & Sons is by reservations—only “unless there is any last minute cancellation,” its website alerts. But good luck scoring one at the 36-seat restaurant: the average waitlist is 600 people, a rep for the restaurant told The Post.
Tucked into a busy, unglamorous stretch of Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue not far from the Barclays Center, the humble-seeming restaurant is helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Chintan Pandya and restaurateur Roni Mazumdar. The pair are behind the critically acclaimed Dhamaka on Delancey Street and Adda in Long Island City. Dhamaka was said to have a 1,500-name wait list a full year after opening. Now, Masalawala & Sons — decked out with tangerine-colored murals and fiery orange-and-yellow flower garlands — is experiencing a similar frenzy.
Reservations open on Resy 30 days in advance at midnight, and one savvy diner told The Post they’ve gone so far as to enlist colleagues in London to book for them. That said, four barstools are allotted for walk-ins, and the odd two-top for a weekday 5 or 5:15 pm time slot does pop up.
Sevilla’s hunt for a table became a team effort; Shrestha, 31, who lives in Midtown, is now also trying, but she could only find a table open on Thanksgiving, when both already had plans.
Eventually the couple gave up trying to book online. Since Seville lives in the neighborhood, he walked by and asked for advice. Show up at 4:45 pm, he was told, 15 minutes before the restaurant opens, and he might get seated at 5. Three months after their journey began, they were sitting down for dinner at 5 on the dot.
“We were the first ones seated,” Sevilla told The Post, enthusing over the kosha mangsho, a braised lamb dish. “It was worth it. It was really good.”
Getting a table for four on Thursday represented a major victory for Park Slope anesthesiologist Erika Pence, who confessed to having been on the case since October.
“They were booked out for the month every time I tried,” Pence said, savoring his good fortune, along with the forehead vada, a dish of fermented lentil dumplings served with sweet and savory yogurt flecked with roasted cumin.
“I got an email yesterday that someone canceled for 6 pm,” she said.
Despite Masalawala’s electric atmosphere and melting-pot menu fusing Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi and Marathi flavors, there’s a familiar, comfortable vibe. And that’s the point, said Mazumdar. The restaurant is intended as a tribute to the Indian homestyle cooking that his Kolkata-born father loved, and that Mazumdar grew up eating.
It’s the restaurant he tried to open ten years ago on the Lower East Side, which may have lasted a decade, but wound up serving a lot of chicken tikka masala and other dishes Mazumdar didn’t grow up eating. The first Masalawala closed last year; at the reboot, diners seem to be hungry for whatever the James Beard-winning Pandya is serving, familiar or not.
Shortly after 6 pm, a table of three sat attentively as a server carved fresh coconut flesh into shrimp curry, tableside. He reminded diners to scrape up every ounce of the Ripon Street majja, bone marrow in paya curry sauce, onto their fresh-fired pao Indian bread. Diners get an A+, he said, if they eat every last bite of the macher dim — fish roe over rice with egg yolk, ghee and green chili. Everyone appeared to be eager to get a good grade.
At another table, a trio told The Post they usually dine at 7 or 8 pm, but didn’t mind the early hour if it meant getting a much-coveted seat. Tracy, a producer who declined to give The Post her last name, said that when she couldn’t book a seat at Masawala, she used her American Express dining concierge benefit to secure a 6:15 time slot.
That hour, she said, laughing, is “not [just for] the early bird special anymore.”