Tag Archives: New and Unusual

“So it’s an Indian Burrito?”

Today, a Columbia classic: Roti Roll, otherwise known as “that Indian burrito place on Amsterdam.”

Of all the places we’ve looked at so far, Roti Roll comes closest to being a true, cheap alternative to dinner in the dining hall.  Only a five minute walk from campus, the whole-in-the-wall restaurant sits at the intersection of 109th and Amsterdam.

Their speciality is the eponymous Roti Roll, a type of Indian (or, as my Indian friend insists, Indian-American) street food that I touched on briefly last time.  These are, in the words of my Indian friend, “random Indian foods mixed up and wrapped in warm roti,” a traditional and still popular form of round, unleavened bread.

Roti Roll offers 12 varieties of these rolls, 8 of which are vegetarian (and thus, to my protein-biased mind, not really options).  My late-night standard is the Chicken Malai roll, “chicken marinated in cream and spices,” mixed up with vegetables and wrapped up, to which I add an extra egg for an extra dollar.   It’s the most popular and probably the most conservative choice on the menu.  Moist chicken, hot and fresh, a pleasant mix of textures and flavors, some of which I’m not familiar with and can’t describe nor remember very well. This is mostly because last night, I added extra spinach for $1.50 extra, which I would not do again.  I was expecting fresh spinach, but I got a ground up paste.  I would’ve been fine with this (the flavor was quite nice), but there was just too much of it. The spinach overpowered the other flavors and pushed the texture of the interior too much in the liquidy direction.

Otherwise, though, the food is awesome, and really cheap!  My Chicken Malai roll was only $5.50; if I had bought two, they would’ve been $5.00 each.  If you’re willing to go for an inferior roll in the interest of getting even more food for your money, I recommend getting two Masala Unda (Spiced Egg Omelette) Frankies for $6.00 (or, if you’ve got my appetite, 4 for $12.00).  There’s no chicken, but two rolls for the price of one is hard to argue with.

The quality of these rolls is somewhat inconsistent; I’ve gone in the middle of the day and been served hard, not-quite-stale but far from fresh roti (the flat bread on the outside.)  I don’t know why this would be; I’m not even sure if the roll are home-made.  But still, rolls I’ve had late at night are consistently fresher and softer. The best rolls I’ve had have been after 1 AM.  Maybe food just tastes better late at night.  Even so, if you’re planning on going, go at night.

Roti Roll is perfect for those nights when you want something substantial and you’d rather smell like Indian spice than JJ’s grease, (or you don’t have the option to smell like JJ’s grease because it’s the weekend.)  Thursday through Saturday, they’re open until 4:00 am, Tuesday and Wednesday they’re upon until 3:00 am, Sunday and Monday they’re open until 2:00 am.  Late on the weekends, if you’re lucky, you might even get treated to some karaoke by the bar next door, through the wall.  Last night we heard Ryan giving some Tay Sway his all; thank you Ryan.


New and Unusual: Warique Peruvian Restaurant

Tacu Tacu con Lomo Saltado

While for the past several weeks my friends and I have been traveling downtown to find restaurants with uncommon cuisines, this weekend we managed to stay in Columbia’s neighborhood. Warique Peruvian Restaurant is located on Amsterdam Avenue between 101st and 102nd street. The restaurant is not very large but offers a fairly large selection of Peruvian foods at a range of prices and in a pleasant atmosphere. There are, unsurprisingly, a huge number of Latin American cuisines with most countries and areas having distinct dishes and elements. This diversity is often not represented in the restaurant world in which Latin American food is dominated by Mexican, Cuban, and a handful of other national cuisines. I was therefore every excited to experience Peruvian food and soon came to find that there are many distinct elements.

Warique Interior

The restaurant has a wide variety of dishes including many chicken and seafood options and uses a variety of unique spices, flavors, and preparation techniques. Unfortunately there was too great a diversity of foods and too few people with me to get a real sample of what Warique has to offer. Nevertheless what we did have we very much enjoyed. As an appetizer we ordered Tamales con Pollo, a fairly simple dish with a corn-based dough exterior filled with chicken and served with some onions, a lime spice, and some other accompaniments.


For entrees we ordered the Tacu Tacu con Lomo Saltado, which was a dish of beef sautéed with onions and tomatoes and served with served with potatoes, sweet plantains, and a rice and bean mix topped with fried egg. We also ordered the Arroz Chaufa which was essentially a Peruvian style fried rice dish. Interestingly there seemed to be a fairly large amount of Chinese influence in the food at Warique and perhaps this is due to the large Chinese community of Peru and their influence on the country’s cuisine.

Peruvian Fried Rice

In any case, I was very satisfied with the meal and also with the restaurant as a whole. The atmosphere was bright, open, had a fair amount of traditional decoration and the wait staff was quite attentive. The pricing was very diverse with some entrees reaching $30 but others less than half of that. The portions were extremely large, such that finishing my entrée was quite the accomplishment. In this sense the restaurant seems to me very well priced. Overall, I would recommend a visit to anyone interested or looking for a good meal and pleasant experience.


New and Unusual: Sticky Rice Thai Restaurant

Sticky Rice Interior

Manhattan’s Lower East side is a hub of all sorts of international cuisines; in fact, I’ve found inspiration for all my posts this semester from this neighborhood. This past week, before catching a movie at one of the neighborhood’s cinemas, some friends and I stopped to get dinner at a truly remarkable Thai restaurant. Thai food has made fairly major inroads into American culture and is far more widely found than some of the other sorts of cuisines I’ve discussed. Sticky Rice, located at 85 Orchard St, just off Delancy St, offers some fairly common Thai fare as well as several signature items in a very unique atmosphere and at a very reasonable price point.

The menu offers a fairly common selection of Thai dishes including several soups, stir-fry, Pad-Thai, and satay. Our party decided to try several appetizers including a signature dish they called Firecrackers, a sort of chicken stick with a coating of fried tofu somewhat spiced and with dipping sauce. Despite the name, this dish was not terribly spicy, which was no cause for dissatisfaction for me. Additionally we ordered Thai Dumplings, which were stuffed with a mixture of chicken and pork, came with a dipping sauce, and were extremely flavorful. My favorite appetizer, however, was the Pineapple Pork Satay, which is (unsurprisingly) a sort of grilled pork with some flavoring accompanied by pineapple slices and a sauce. The pork was well cooked and quite flavorful, and the combination of sweet and savory very pleasing. For entrees our group ordered only stir-fry dishes; I myself got the Stir-Fry Basil Chicken, which included a mixture of chicken and vegetables with basil as the primary flavoring, and multi-grain rice. I was quite satisfied with this dish as it was fairly light and the basil was far from overpowering.

Firecrackers, Thai Dumplings, and Pork Satay with Pineapple

In terms of food the restaurant was quite pleasing, particularly considering the price point–our entrees and appetizers came to a mere $20 a person, an impressive accomplishment for a sit down restaurant in Manhattan. The wait staff was very friendly and the atmosphere was really remarkable. The restaurant is aimed to be something along the lines of a Thai Wine Bar and so has a bar area and a very large drink menu. The entire restaurant has a sort of pseudo-club atmosphere: they play somewhat loud but not deafening electronic trance music and the extensive decoration is a mixture between traditional Thai items and modern ones. Personally, I loved this environment; it was festive, lively, and visually stimulating. I recommend paying the place a visit, even for just a drink, if one is in the area.

New and Unusual: Maharlika Filipino Moderno

Maharlika Filipino Moderno Interior

Although there are millions of ethic Filipinos in the United States and a large community in the New York area, restaurants offering this cuisine are not terribly common. There are, however, several options in Manhattan, one of which is Maharlika, a restaurant that serves modern Filipino food and is located on 1st Avenue between 6th and 7th. This past weekend I went to visit this establishment with a group of friends. The previous weekend I had attempted to arrive without a reservation and found the restaurant packed, but even after calling a day ahead as I did this weekend I found there were few unreserved tables. My experience at this restaurant soon justified the hassle and explained why it is so popular.

Fried Chicken Skins & Sauces

The sort of food offered by the restaurant was very unique and best described as a sort of fusion of Asian, American, and Spanish cuisines, perhaps explained by the history of the Islands. In lieu of bread we were given fried chicken skins with a variety of dips including banana-ketchup (basically a sweeter version of ketchup with a distinct banana flavor), house vinegar, chili, and soy sauce. For appetizers we ordered some unique items: Spam Fries (beer battered sticks of fried spam and a clear case of cross-cultural culinary development); Lumpianh Barquillos (rice paper cigars with beef, pork, and vegetables) ; Pampanging Style Sizzling Sisig  (pig ears, snout, cheek and belly cooked with garlic, chili, and onions, served with scrambled egg and garlic fried rice). All of these appetizers, strange though they are, were delicious and enhanced by the various dipping sauces I mentioned above.

Spam Fries

Our entrees included Chop Suey (grilled marinated tofu with steamed vegetables and peppers); Prok Adobo (spare ribs braised in soy sauce and other flavorings with potato); Beef Short Rib Kaldereta, served with potatoes, fried chorizo and grilled pineapple; and Filipino Fried Chicken and Ube Waffle, the waffles were made with purple yam, the butter contained anchovy, and the syrup was caramelized. Once again every member of the party was satisfied with their dish.

Waffles and Fried Chicken

The restaurant is not terribly large but the atmosphere is lively, with both a bar as well as a number of tables and some thematict decoration. I was asked multiple times by various staff if this was my first time at the restaurant and they were truly delighted to find that it was. They staff was extremely helpful and enthusiastic and seemed very proud of the food and experience that they were providing. While the food was undeniably good, I think what was most enjoyable was the experience and novelty of the place, as well as the cozy, friendly, and fun environment. My only word of caution is that the food is very meat focused (though there are some vegetarian options) and most of it is also quite heavy. In any case, I’ll certainly be planning another visit at some point and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new culinary experience.