New York City does not lack specialty food stores. It’s a city where people take cooking seriously — be it a holiday banquet for 16 or the quick dinner for two after work. New Yorkers want the best products all the time. Actually, scratch that. New Yorkers want the option to buy from a selection of the 24 best products all the time. It’s why we love being New Yorkers and why some people think we’re cray.
Two-story Kalustyan’s in the heart of Manhattan’s Murray (Curry) Hill neighborhood is such that place that sells, for example, 127 varieties of salt. Smoked salt from Maine. Brazilian sea salt. Pink salt from the Himalayas. Kosher salt. Lemon salt. Black salt from Hawaii. It’s all available on the cramped shelves in an epic display of sight and smell. Your nose will lead you straight to the spice room, where over 4,000 (for real!) packets, jars and canisters are available. It’s like going to the Strand Book Store — you get sucked in looking at the different types of smoked paprika from Spain, packets of Korean barbecue rubs and fenugreek.
Also, extensively (insanely), offered in a vast variety: bitters, tea, European candies and chocolates, Middle Eastern cooking vessels, beans, honey, incense, crackers, ghee and sauces. So many sauces — from Vietnam, India and South America.
Recently, the owners expanded their café to include seating. If you don’t get sucked into the shopping — or have time for a quick bite — we suggest ordering some grape leaves and a Mujadara sandwich. The later is a pretty near amazing patty of fried lentils spiked with tahini and hot sauce served on a pita.
On the way out while you’re paying, order some baklava to go. There are over six varieties to chose from — including flaky squares from Greece and Turkey. Of course there are six varieties.
123 Lexington Ave., NY 10016 tel 212-685-3451 www.kalustyans.com