Roti rolls. Kati rolls. Chapati rolls. Indian burritos. Call them what you will—if you live in New York and have never had any variation on these stuffed grilled paratha wraps, get one now. They are hand-held, greasy, and full of any number of ingredients—from chicken tikka with egg to palak paneer, depending on where you venture. Lucky for us, since the success of Kati Roll Company, which has two locations (one in Midtown and one in the West Village), these rolls seem to be popping up all over the place—from the Biriyani Cart in Midtown, who were recently nominated for a Vendy Award, to Roomali in Gramercy.
When I discovered Roti Roll Bombay Frankie was around the corner from my apartment, open late on the weekends, and just a few steps down from my neighborhood watering hole and Columbia favorite, 1020, it became a must-eat. Yet, even more exciting than seeing if the rolls were up to snuff was trying the Masala Calamari—a unique and strange addition to the Indian burrito scene. Who knew that a pint of spicy fried squid after a night out could be pretty good?
At Roti Roll, the moniker of choice is "frankie." On my first visit, I had the Aloo Masala Frankie ("spiced potatoes and sweet pea mix") and the Hot Aloo Fries. The frankie was pretty tasty, but I found the fries a little disappointing. The potatoes came in fried flat discs and not nearly as crispy as I like them to be. They looked and tasted like Buffalo Fries, but not as good I suppose. On my next visit, I had the Chicken Malai Frankie ("chicken marinated in cream & spices") with egg and the Lamb Boti Frankie ("lamb marinated in exotic Indian spices"). Both were prepared very quickly and were larger than the rolls you get at Kati Roll or the Biriyani Cart. Though the paratha was less greasy here, it was also chewier and less soft—so it depends on what you prefer. There was no shortage of raw onions and tomatoes, but overall, both rolls lacked the zing and spice I was expecting and craved. Sure, they were pretty tasty, but I found myself wanting to pour hot sauce all over it. Though, I have to admit, my tastebuds have taken a beating over time and do demand high volumes of zing, spice, and all that jazz and pizazz.
The Masala Calamari came packed into a small Chinese takeout container with a side of Cilantro Mayonnaise. The bright orange "Indian Spices" was clearly the same mix that graced the Hot Aloo Fries from my previous visit. Despite it being too greasy even by my standards (when I brought it home, the closed box tipped over and a pool of oil eeked out onto my kitchen counter), I couldn't stop eating the fried neon mess of tentacles and rings. The calamari and the fries aren't the only non-Frankie that gets this orange spice mix—there are also Chicken Lollipops ("chicken wings Bombay style") and Spiced Shrimp Popcorn.
This is clearly only the beginning of my relationship with Bombay Frankie, which may end up being like a guy you or someone you know has dated in the past: may not be the best, but is better than "good enough" and way too convenient after a night out.
Roti Roll Bombay Frankie
994 Amsterdam Avenue, New York NY 10025 (nr. 109th St.; map) 212-666-1500