The Kati House is In the Midtown Southwest House
Midtown loves its kati rolls. Amongst Indian food, few other dishes than the stalwart samosa, popular pakora, and killer kati rolls stand in the street-food pantheon. These things are the best eat-and-walk chow you can get on the subcontinent, I assert. Problem is, the southern chunk of midtown has been fairly kati roll-free. Serendipitously, Seamless’ “hey guys, look what’s new!” blast came out the other day showing a new spot that we hadn’t yet heard of: The Kati House (on 36th btw. 8+9th). On an otherwise unremarkable block housing an NYPD motor pool and generic dragon Chinese, could this be an addition to the hole-in-the-wall Indo-Pakistani in the area?
A Wikipedia entry on kati rolls heralds the menu out front. I’m all for knowing about the story behind food, but it seems like one hell of a backstory behind “let’s put stuff in a paratha and eat it.”
The place was formerly a bar (there’s still a shamrock over the new Kati House sign, making the single best clash of cultures EVER), and the owners have kept it as such. The dark wood interior looks like a fairly cramped affair to go out drinking, but I know very few bars that serve Indian food (at least, very few bars that serve GOOD Indian food).
To be fair, I bought a bunch of rolls since my wife and I needed dinner. Seven rolls totaled $26 before a Seamless discount and tip. This averages out to $3.71 per roll, but do yourself a favor: order ‘em by the duo. Here we have two mutton haryali rolls and a chili paneer roll. They don’t do a mix-and-match for meat and veg, which is a shame, but otherwise it’s 2 meat rolls for $8 or 2 veg rolls for $6. These bad boys are DENSE, so you should hold no illusions about eating three unless you’re REALLY starving. I intended to do three but was only able to take on two.
The first roll was one of the mutton rolls. It started out being amazing – the lamb was nicely cooked, yielding to the bite, with enough lambyness to be great. The lamb itself is seasoned with a tart, piquant flavoring that went great with the fiery spice on the roll itself. Red onions? Perfect complement.
Sadly, this didn’t last for long. The remaining chunks of meat were seemingly full of gristle, requiring serious chewing and grinding. I’m thinking this is what cows chewing their cud is like? Either way, blech. It tasted fine but my jaws were left hurtin’.
The chili paneer roll was a most welcome turnabout from the gristle of the lamb. The paneer itself is milder than other paneer I’ve had, with a more sweet milky undertone to it. The paneer itself is seared on all sides and in big chunks, so it’s a very good meat substitute if you’re so inclined.
It goes great with the peppers and eggs, the former with a very good crispness remaining. The egg is scrambled, cooked to solidity, and it supports the paratha well as a structural integrity piece. I wish there was more spiciness to the whole thing, though – whatever heat or spice was present was overshadowed by the sweetness of the paneer, pepper, and egg. If you have friends who are averse to spicy food, this is what they want – there is very little chili to the chili paneer until I got to the last bite, which was a chunk of paneer doused in chili sauce that tasted like it was from a Kikkoman bottle. Next time I’m shooting for the achari paneer in hopes that awesome pickled achar will give a much needed balancing kick to the roll.
I’m hopeful that since I got my lunch from Kati House on their second day in operation, these are just bumps in the road. We aren’t looking at a total failure of the model, or service, or turnaround – hell, I ordered just as I was leaving the office and they were ready then and there for me – but there’s still some issues that Kati House needs to work off. The quantity isn’t bad for what you pay, and 60% of the kati roll was tasty. The 40% on each roll was just something that really stood out. Gristly meat doesn’t belong anywhere in street food, and the chili paneer just needed a useful tweak. It’s going to be worth going back to these guys (as opposed to making the schlep to Kati Roll Company) if you’re nearby and want to counteract the forces of evil sandwichery with a wrapped chunk of awesomeness. Just so long as it isn’t gristly.
The + (What the Nahasapeemapetilon family would say):
- Generously served, dense, and cheap – what a combo!
- The chutneys and flavors are wonderful on the haryali roll.
- Not skimping with the paneer is a very good thing – as is the paneer itself!
The – (What the Gandhiesque civil disobedients would say):
- Someone borked up the spices on the chili paneer.
- Why can’t I get a combo price on meat/veg together?
- What’s up with the meat and its awful gristle?
The Kati House, 314 West 36th St. (between 8th and 9th)