83 Lexington Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets
$7 for one dish
Let’s go there, I said as I pulled the Dr. towards the street crossing. Among the many restaurants in Curry Hill, the South Asian restaurant row in the Gramercy Park area, Kasturi is the only one without the frills. No string of chili lights here or sari-style tablecloths, just straight-up Bangladeshi food. You walk down a few steps and sit under really bright fluorescent lights with the taxi cab drivers on break.
The food is as bright as the lights, and before Kasturi, I never had anything like it. The dishes we tried all had a lemony taste and the saucy stews weren’t thick nor heavy. We couldn’t have enough of the anchovy stew, an interesting mix of ceviche taste with broth from a long-simmered stew. A tamer plate of zucchini and chickpeas smothered with bay and curry leaves was equally good, if not better with pickled hot peppers. We mopped everything else with warm nan. The neon yellow rice tasted better than it looked and a bowl of it proved just right for two Asians after a night out of drinking in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
We didn’t know what kind of food Kasturi served when we walked in and only realized it was Bangladeshi when we saw that the TV was fixed on ATN Bangla. There were plenty of phone card commercials and the diners next to me smiled when I correctly interpreted a commercial with an actor scratching his palms as someone who was expecting some money. They were eating the same dishes and watching them made me think of home: they were using their hands.
Kasturi is one of the reasons why I love New York City. Even after almost sixteen years of calling it home, I still discover new places, new foods and new cultures.