Working Lunch

The Kati Roll Company
49 West 39th Street
New York, NY 10018

Photo Jun 25, 2 27 39 PMOne of the first things I do when I move to a new office—or anywhere really—is scope out the scene. Ok, so for some people the scene might be cool bars to drink at, or clubs to get their dance party on, but to me the scene is all about the food! Are there any cute little ramen bars? Or a fabulous French bakery? Or a hot and spicy Thai restaurant? So when I stumbled upon The Kati Roll Company around the corner from my office, I knew that I had to try it out.

Photo Jun 25, 2 23 45 PMOriginally just a sole location in Greenwich village in 2002, The Kati Roll Company has grown to include multiple restaurants—3 in NYC and one in London’s Soho area—including one in Midtown West, which is where I dined.

Photo Jun 25, 2 23 42 PMAs I walked through the door I was hit by the aromas of chickpeas, ginger, onion, garam masala—very warm spices, and makes me imagine being in an open air market and automatically conjures images of various street foods, which is good because kati rolls are a very traditional Indian street food popping up more and more around the USA. The space was unassuming—a no frills, all about the food kind of place. There was Indian Bollywood music playing at some points of my visit, and sometimes pop music/Top 40 singles—only added to the atmosphere. My kind of spot!

So here are the basics. Each kati roll has the same base and is wrapped in warm paratha—an Indian flatbread. It’s not as puffy as the ubiquitous naan, but slightly more chewy and is flavored with ghee—Indian clarified butter. All of the rolls are also available with whole wheat roti as well. They have cheese rolls, veggie filings like chickpeas, potatoes etc. and meats galore—lamb, chicken, shrimp, beef—and you can order any of them everyday.

One nice touch is that they offer a sample of masala chai tea. The tea is much different than the Chai tea latte you’d get at Starbucks or The Coffee Bean. It has a strong black tea flavor and is very soothing with a thin consistency and an almost smoky aftertaste. It  would’ve also made a nice appertif, but hot tea on a hot summer day was a little much. Still, it was good.

Photo Jun 25, 2 40 15 PMThe person behind the counter told me that a basic, filling meal at The Kati Roll Company consisted of two rolls—three if you were really hungry. For mine, I ordered the Shrimp Masala Roll ($6.75) and the Unda Chicken Roll ($6). The shrimp roll was simple,  but delicious. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, moist from the coconut they are marinated in, and big. The masala spice blend was subtle in its spice and warmth, giving the wrap a wonderful earthiness. The roll itself was chewy, but not too thick with a nice char on the outside. There was a nice punch of tartness from the pickled shallots, and aromatic flavor from the onions. Overall, it was very tasty—the recipe was actually developed by  a former Top Chef Masters contestant!

Photo Jun 25, 2 40 18 PMThe Unda Chicken Roll was also great, but different from the shrimp. It was much bigger with a  layer of egg—unda referring to the addition of the egg—attached to inner bread layer of the roll. The egg wasn’t a very forward flavor profile, but mostly just gave the wrap more meatiness and heft. The roll was also slightly looser and not as tightly rolled as the shrimp roll. There were big pieces of barbecued white meat chicken that really filled me up. The similar masala flavors were present, but a bit more in the background. The flavors might not have been as bold, but it was very classic and filling.

Photo Jun 25, 2 25 44 PMOne of the highlights of many Indian meals—at least for me—is having a nice, cold Mango Lassi ($4). At The Kati Roll Company, the lassis, which they are famous for, are available in mango or berry are individually packaged in reusable bottles. They are made fresh everyday and absolutely delicious! The mango lassi was a wonderful yellow/orange, almost daffodil-like, color, and not too sweet. It was thick with a full body and mouthfeel, with deep mango flavor and a hint of tartness that coats the palate. I ended up drinking it after finishing the rolls and it was almost like dessert—so refreshing. Yummy!

Photo Jun 25, 2 27 02 PMThe Kati Roll Company is now one of my favorite lunch spots and great for a quick, out of the normal box meal. The best thing on the menu for me was the mango lassi, which I could have every day, but the shrimp masala roll was also delish. I can’t wait to try lots of other rolls from the menu as well. Lunchtime is on a roll!

Scrumptious Italian Sandwiches in Astoria

Il Bambino
34-08 31st Ave
Astoria, NY 11106

My brother recently moved to Astoria in Queens, NY. Being the awesome, amazing and caring big brother that I am, I was helping him move some things into his new apartment, until we got hungry for some lunch. I think Astoria is a great neighborhood, and it’s a super hotspot right now. While it might have once only been known for Greek restaurants—of which there are still many—it is now a haven for artists, musicians, foodies and hipsters. All over Astoria there are gourmet eateries ranging in cuisine from spicy Thai cook shops, to brick oven pizzerias, gourmet grilled cheese, barbecue smokehouses, big beer gardens, Japanese ramen shops, and many, many more.

Photo Jun 20, 1 28 07 PMOne of these unique restaurants is Il Bambino, which opened in 2006. It is a cute, little hole in the wall place on the 31st Avenue block, specializing in old-school panini, and other Italian fare, with a second location in the West Village as well. It has a casual atmosphere with a big selection of panini and crostini, as well as salads, antipasto, and a special brunch menu on the weekends. It has an open kitchen in the front where there are multiple panini presses working at once sending out creative meat, cheese and veggie combinations. They use ciabatta bread that is freshly baked daily, local produce and handmade condiments. There’s also a great meat a mind cheese glossary available for perusal of those that aren’t familiar with some of the selections.

Photo Jun 20, 1 06 03 PMWe got there during the weekend lunch rush and luckily were able to snag a small table near the front. Everything on the menu looked amazing, and even though I was somewhat distracted by the giant salad being eaten by the woman next to me, we decided to save time and each went with a panini.

Photo Jun 20, 1 19 47 PMThe Bacon Butty ($12) has a powerful and pungent blue cheese flavor. There is a good amount of moist, chewy bacon—it had the perfect texture and amount of smokiness that have some oomph to the sandwich. The combination of avocado, scrambled eggs and blue cheese made for a great combo, and the creaminess from the spicy mayo added a certain level of unctuousness to the sandwich as well. The hot bread was nice and crusty, with a wonderful crunch as it was bitten into. It was also a pretty big panini—perfect for a filling brunch or lunch.

Photo Jun 20, 1 19 40 PMIn contrast to the Bacon Butty, which was slightly more traditional American, the Pass the Hash ($11) was very, very Italian. The eggs were cooked well and not dry at all. The garlic roasted potatoes provided some needed heft and the chorizo bumped up the meatiness of the panini. The whole sandwich had a great truffle flavor from the aioli that also perfumed the filling. The addition of Parmesan made the panini luxurious and really elevated the rather simple ingredients to something special, and tied it all together. The inside of the panini was creamy and contrasted with the crustiness of the grilled bread.Photo Jun 27, 1 27 15 PM

Photo Jun 27, 1 28 35 PMThose two panini were super filling and so delicious that a couple of weeks later we decided to pick up a panini to share as an afternoon snack—alright, I’ll admit…a big snack!—and it was the best takeout ever. The Porchetta ($11) panini was definitely made for the carnivorous at heart. Porchetta is a boneless pork loin that is stuffed with herbs, garlic, then rolled and roasted with the skin still on to keep then meat moist and delicious. In the Porchetta panini, the meaty pork loin was fatty with juice gushing out of the meat. It was topped with a fresh and spicy slaw that was definitely helpful in cutting through the rich, fatty meat. The pickle slaw were a nice surprise hidden in the middle of the panini, and the rosemary aioli also gave the sandwich a nice earthiness and deep woody flavor. The bread soaked up the pork juices and it was mouthwateringly delicious.

Photo Jun 20, 1 27 57 PMIl Bambino is the perfect spot for some lunch, brunch or anything in between. It has a ton of great Italian panini available and great beers and wines to pair with them. While the restaurant might be small in size, it makes up for it with big played and bold flavors. Buon Appetito!