Kalustyan's is spice heaven. Around since 1944, it's a mecca of Indian and Middle Eastern ingredients- a small space jammed tight with thousands of different spices, nuts, dried fruits, beans, rice, salts, blahblah. And for all you condiment freaks, they have a wall devoted to the weirdest sauces from all over the world. They don't waste an inch of shelf space here.
There's a really tiny cafe on the second floor (like 3 tables and 5 chairs tiny), serving pita sandwiches stuffed with anything from fresh baba gannoush, falafel, lentil salads, all the good stuff, for like $3.
But why not just take all this stuff home and have your own Kalustyan's party? There's a fridge section in the back where you can buy all these pre-made dishes for super cheap. Here's what I had over at Troy and Kumiko's recently- it was an easy, healthy meal, with a lot of variety. I don't eat Middle Eastern food so much, but Kalustyan's reminds me that I'm totally missing out.
I will be generic and start with their very delicious baba gannoush. Only 6 ingredients, super simple, so creamy, so good.
The Israeli couscous was very fresh-tasting, not overpacked with spices, very simple. Great textures, the beans and the couscous together.
The chickpea salad- spicy, curryish, flavorful.
Probably the most interesting dish was this shungklish. There's cheese in it, but it's very subtle. Spicy and really good.
Highlight of the Meal I: this dish called mujaddara, which is lentils, bulghar and fried onions. No joke, this is incredible. Fried onions and beans! Friggin delish.
Grape leaves- my mouth is watering just looking at this.
Plate of fried goodies.
Highlight of the Meal II: the samosa. Quite possibly the best samosa I've ever had. EVER. The potatoes, the whole peas, perfectly curried and spiced, wrapped in dough. It's a beautiful thing, these samosas. Just look at it!
These really great fried onion cakes. They were bright orange- I couldn't figure out from what, but don't miss this.
Wrap all the above ingredients with a pita and make a sandwich, or just dip as you go. Don't forget the hot sauce or the tahini.
These baklava sticks were buttery, flakey and sweet, but they aren't sopping with honey like the Greek version, so it's not a sugar overload.
I don't know what these are called but they are pistachio and honey, wrapped in a single piece of filo dough (I think?). This was my favorite. Gooey, a sort of smoky flavor. A great way to end such a sweet feast. All in the comfort of your own home!
123 Lexington Avenue
Between 28th & 29th Streets