Roti Lets You Build Your Own Mediterranean Meals

Last Friday, the Midtown location of Roti Mediterranean Grill (43rd btw 3rd+Lex) finally opened. So, how does Roti’s build-your-own concept stand up? Pretty well, as it turns out.

You get three options at Roti: you can have a sandwich (pita or laffa wrap), a rice plate, or a salad. Each comes with complimentary hummus and roasted vegetables, and with the salad and plate, you get a small pita. After that, Roti follows in true Chiptole fashion, as you choose your meat, sauces, sides, and toppings. Each meal costs $8.45, but you have to pay a dollar extra for the steak roti and two dollars for salmon.

To start with, I tried a rice plate with steak roti. I was tempted to try the salmon, but it looked a bit dry (understandable when fish isn’t cooked to order). The falafel looked pretty good as well, with a dark, and thus I assume crispy crust. But enough of that, the steak roti is cooked on a rotating spit, like shawarma. To go along with my steak, I chose the dill, yogurt and cucumber sauce, a side of tomato and cucumber salad, and sumac onions (love me some sumac). With the rice, plus my complimentary roasted veggies, hummus, and pita, I got a decent plate of food for around nine bucks.

Let’s start with the steak. Unfortunately, as you can practically see in the picture above, it was pretty dry. It had a good flavor from the spices it was cooked in, but didn’t taste very beefy. But combined with the onions and dipped in the yogurt sauce, which tasted mostly of dill, the steak was pretty good. Still it was nothing special.

I was actually most impressed with the roasted vegetables. They included carrots, beets, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. They could have been roasted a bit more, but they were pretty tasty. The tomato and cucumber salad was also pretty good. Maybe it’s because we’re just at the end of tomato season, but the cherry tomatoes in the salad had good flavor, which I just don’t ever expect from a chain restaurant. The same could be said for the rice. Usually, a side of rice is bland, but this rice had good flavor from the spices it was cooked with. Sadly, the pita, though made in house, was not as successful. It was soft enough, but the taste was too doughy.

On my second trip to Roti, I decided to try out a laffa wrap. This time, I opted to have it with the chicken roti, also roasted on a spit, which looked the best of the protein options available. Roti uses FreeBird chicken (naturally and sustainably raised), if you care where your food is coming from. To complete the wrap, I added s’hug (essentially a Middle Eastern hot sauce), red cabbage and carrot slaw, hummus, roasted veggies, and more sumac onions (I told you I love me some sumac). The results were very good.

The chicken was head and shoulders above the steak. It had a great, smoky, spicy flavor, which was accentuated by the s’hug. The slaw added a good crunch and cooled down the spice a bit. Most importantly, whereas the rice plate felt like I was eating a dish of separate items, everything came together in the laffa. The laffa is the way to go at Roti. As Andrea said, it’s like a Mediterranean burrito. I think that’s a good thing.

When all is said and done, if Midtown’s lunch options are to be dominated by large chains, I’d prefer chains like Roti. You can hunt down some more authentic Mediterranean meals, such as the nearby Adana Grill, but if your palate is geared more towards chicken and steak than lamb, Roti has some pretty authentic-tasting flavors and gets you a tasty meal for under 10 bucks.

Roti Mediterranean Grill, 43rd St. (btw 3rd+Lex)

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