Flatiron Lunch: Stick With the Daily Specials at The Sirtaj
Every Friday our man UltraClay goes south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
The Sirtaj is hidden in plain sight. Eclipsed by neighbors Hill Country and barbecue bar The Hog Pit, you could walk by it a million times without really considering walking in. I checked it out on the recommendation of a friend who is easily as into food as I am, but didn’t see what the big deal was about until I started to explore the daily specials – including vegetarian options I would never consider otherwise.
You wouldn’t call The Sirtaj inviting. It’s deep and dimly lit and sort of looks like they haven’t finished (or started) decorating it. There’s no buffet or food on display. In fact, the menu on the wall is to the side of the counter, not above it, so you can’t really see it until you’re in ordering position.
On my first visit, I had no idea what I was looking at, so I just ordered the first thing that looked familiar, the chicken tikka. That comes with one chicken quarter ($4.50) or two ($6.95) and a plate of rice topped with curry. The naan is another dollar and is big enough to hang over the edges of the paper plate it comes on.
It was good, the chicken was tender, there was a nice char around the edges, but it wasn’t any better than what I get at Punjab Palace. I wondered what the big deal was.
When I asked the friend who recommended it, he advised me to take another look at all those unknown options that I skipped over.
It turns out that the takeout menu lists descriptions for these mysterious items.
So, I went back and took a leap of faith. I had the Tuesday special, Kari ($5.75) – vegetable fritters in a thick yogurt curry. The curry was moderately spicy, but with a heat that hits you in the back of the throat. There weren’t a ton of the fritters that I could see immersed in the sauce, but that was okay. The sauce clung to the rice in tasty bundles of creamy goodness.
I returned on a Monday and had the Kali Chana ($5.75) – black chickpea curry on rice. The black chickpeas were firmer and starchier than I expected. There is more weight to them.
A plate of chickpeas, curry and rice doesn’t seem like something that would satisfy me. In fact, I planned to go around the corner to Hill Country Chicken to finally try the pie shake since I expected to still be hungry after I left. I walked in, got to the counter and turned around and left. I was stuffed! Who knew?
To be clear, there is a whole menu of other meat-based dishes, but nothing that isn’t available at every other Indian or Pakistani in the area. It’s the specials that are the most interesting.
While, I still don’t condone vegetarianism, I can now say I’ve dabbled a bit. Maybe I’m veg-curious… or not. The one special that really caught my attention was the Friday meal: quail cooked in a special sauce on rice.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- The daily specials give you the chance to try out dishes you may never have heard of.
- I’m a vegetarian. (That didn’t even feel right to type)
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Dude, this place looks sketchy.
- Where’s the food? There’s not even a picture of food anywhere.
The Sirtaj, 36 West 26th St (btwn Broadway & 6th Ave). 212.989.3766