Battle of the Paneer Kati Rolls: Kati Roll Co. v. Thelewala
Rebecca Marx Kati rolls: so very, very beige
Over the past few years, the kati roll has gained quite a bit of traction in Manhattan. A street food that originated in Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, the roll has evolved over the years from a paratha wrapped around a kebab to its current form, a paratha rolled with many types of filling.
Back in 2006, Midtown Lunch raved over the so-called Indian burritos offered at Kati Roll Company; subsequently, they began appearing on the menus of numerous Midtown street carts, and even attracted the fickle attentions of Angelo Sosa. The Kati Roll Company's Midtown location was actually its second in New York; its original outpost is on MacDougal Street.
While the Midtown location has plenty of nearby competition, its New York flagship long enjoyed kati-roll supremacy in Greenwich Village. Until three weeks ago, when Thelewala opened almost directly across the street. The tiny shop sells an assortment of Indian street foods, including "famous Nizami rolls," which is another name for kati rolls -- "Nizami" refers to Kolkata's Nizam restaurant, where the rolls are said to have been invented. So naturally, we wondered how they would compare with the competition. Both places offer a paneer roll, and so a battle plan was formed.
Rebecca Marx Kati Roll Co.'s kati roll
First we went to the Kati Roll Company. There, paneer (or fresh cheese) comes in the form of the achari paneer roll. Priced at $5.25, it came stuffed with cheese, thin slices of purple onion, a hunk or two of green pepper, and precisely one piece of tomato. The exterior of the cheese boasted a delightfully garish orange hue from, as the menu informed us, being marinated in spicy pickle. The paratha enclosing everything was griddled to order, and fairly greasy.
Although the vegetables registered as an afterthought, the paneer itself was terrific. Fresh, a bit salty, and pleasantly chewy around the edges, it wasn't nearly as spicy as its spicy-pickle bath would seem to promise, but still gave off a decent amount of heat. The paratha, though a little oilier than we would have liked, was soft and flaky and all of those good things that parathas are supposed to be. While we would have preferred the roll without the errant vegetables, as the tomato was flavorless and we loathe green peppers, it was all in all a very enjoyable kati roll. We'd certainly eat it again if we found ourselves on MacDougal Street and in the mood for something that wasn't Mamoun's.