Location Visited: Garment District
Catering is available.
“Everything you are eating is made fresh daily. We make everything from scratch every morning. There is no frozen food.”
Anil Bathwal proclaims this matter-of-factly across the table from me. As the husband of Payal Saha, the founder and owner of The Kati Roll Company, I thought his boasting might contain bias.
Boy, I was wrong.
Upon entering The Kati Roll Company on 49th W 39th Street, I was instantly struck by sensory overload—bright orange-painted brick walls (some exposed), distressed Bollywood movie posters, and top 40 pop/R&B blaring overhead. While it felt like too much at first, the ambiance came into focus when I looked down to see the hardwood floors and the minimal seating in the front with more seating in the back after one walks past the open kitchen. Overall, the mood straddled between New York City lazy chic and India street pop-culture.
Their menu is simple, and by “simple,” I mean it has focus and does not inhibit the customer’s ability to make a choice by giving you too many options. The caveat to this is that everything is delectable, so after your first try you may end up sweating over which Kati Roll to try next.
First, I tried the Aloo Masala Roll. I was impressed with the balance of flavors between their homemade paratha (lightly-fried, hand-rolled, layered bread) and the spicy and full-flavored fillings of hand-mashed, fried potatoes, tomatoes, and green peppers. “Spicy” describes their home-blend of over 25 distinct spices used on many of their rolls. This classic Indian street food creation was vegetarian heaven in roll form.
Next up was the Shami-Kabab Roll. Wow. The minced lamb and lentil croquettes inside the paratha provide both texture from the croquette shell and soft savoriness from the finely minced lamb mixture. I am a self-made connoisseur of lamb, and this hit the mark.
Lastly, the most famous roll—the Chicken Tikka Roll. Tender, juicy chicken, marinated in the house spice blend and yogurt…I could see why this was the most popular. The chicken is hormone and antibiotic-free halal chicken according to their website. It tasted so fresh! I realized Anil was not fibbing when he said everything was made from scratch daily. It shows in the quality of the food.
When asked about special dietary options, Anil said it is easy to accommodate such requests. If you are vegan, stay away from the paratha—it contains clarified butter. Instead, opt for the Roti flatbread. And make sure to choose one of the vegetarian rolls and simply request no cheese if it includes that (the Achari Paneer Roll appears to be the only one with this obstacle). Also, the Shami-Kabab Roll contains egg. The paratha is already gluten-free, so you’re ready to go! If that doesn’t work for you difficult ones (I joke I joke), there is an organic salad…
If you have a long break during the school day or want to travel downtown on the weekend, don’t miss out on The Kati Roll Company experience.
DIRECTIONS: Jump on the downtown 1 train and go to 42nd Street/Times Square. Get off and walk southeast for about six minutes to 49 W 39th Street. What’s great about the kati roll experience is that you can eat inside and enjoy a lager (the recommended alcoholic beverage to pair), soda, or a sweet yoghurt-based lassi to balance the spice of the rolls; or you can take it to go on your way to Bryant Park juggling class or to buy more (unnecessary) books from the New York Public Library’s gift shop (I opted for “Le Penseur” socks instead)! Anil says the kati roll is practical for hungry people on-the-go.
Also—the average price for a roll is $5.50! That’s cheaper than an Up Coffee Company salad-in-a-jar!
After I had finished stuffing my face and Anil taught me about the street fare of Kolkata, India (the source of inspiration), I started to wean away from the idea that the restaurant vibe oversaturated the senses. Instead, the restaurant’s humble liveliness embodies the spirit of the food, and that is something many of the imitation Kati Roll companies cannot live up to.
I will definitely go back.