How many of us would step out of our houses and end up at a restaurant that serves food that has a very homelike, comforting feel to it -- reminds us of our own homecooked meals? The daal, pasanday, chicken curry etc, all served with a tawa-wali chappati exactly the way we get at home?
This was the question that drew me towards this newly opened restaurant that claims to serve desi fast food -- local, traditional food served in around five minutes and at fairly economical prices (a little over Rs300 is the average price, inclusive of taxes) -- something the owners claim has not been paid attention to much by almost all restaurants offering desi food.
Also, considering the price range and the quick service, they say their primary target market is the working individual who can grab a quick meal during their lunch breaks. But they seem to be getting more customers for dinner.
Aptly called Roti, this new eatery has opened up at the iconic spot -- and if you grew up in Lahore in the ‘90s you’d know for sure -- that was once Copper Kettle in the basement of Empire Centre on Gulberg’s Main Boulevard.
As my four friends and I walked in, we realised the place is unassuming, unpretentious and quite basic in terms of its interior: wooden tables and benches, a pillar in the middle adorned with glass jars filled and labelled with local spices and ingredients and a wall painted with the name of the restaurant.
All five of us ordered different dishes with an assortment of paratha and tandori and tawa roti, as the serving size of each dish caters to an individual person only. But, of course, we managed to nibble on each other’s food. The Channay ki Daal was cooked in desi ghee with nigella seeds (kalonji) and garnished with a slice of lemon, whole red chilli and julienned ginger. Definitely the most delicious out of everything we ordered: it was fresh, had a balanced flavour and packed a punch.
Then they have their own version of a classic Butter Chicken. Boneless tender chicken cubes were cooked in aromatic spices, cream, tomatoes and topped with a dollop of desi butter. The chicken was cooked really well and the gravy sweet and slightly tangy, while that butter added a new twist to this global favourite. A little char on the chicken would have just elevated the whole thing altogether.
The Bhunna Gosht, to me, seemed like a refined version of a qorma, but retaining the homeliness of the flavour. Succulent pieces of mutton were cooked to perfection in generous amount of desi ghee, a blend of spices in a thick tomato gravy. It made for a delicious, hearty, flavoursome meal – whether you have it with a paratha or a chappati.
The Dum Qeema was another mouthwatering item on the menu. Minced beef cooked in desi ghee with ginger, garlic and spring onion with a hint of charcoal flavour gave the humble minced meat dish a new meaning. The Pasanday – a special that day – reminded me of the version we make at home. The beef fillets were marinated and cooked well, making it easy to pull off and chew. The desi ghee, green and red chilli and a blend of spices make it comforting and fulfilling.
On the side, we had their spicy mint and imli ki chutneys and fried green chilies that blended well with each dish.
To top off the meal, we had the warm, soft and delectable gulab jaman; gurr walay chawal; and a fancy meethi roti that not only looked appetising, but was crisp and sprinkled with an assortment of desi butter, fennel seeds and gurr (jaggery). The perfect end to a traditional, gratifying meal that doesn’t leave you uneasy in the tummy.
The good thing about the food at Roti is that the individual servings are generous, almost everything cooked in desi ghee, which adds its own flavour to the food, and extremely easy on the pocket. This could also be among the very few restaurants that serves both Shezan mango and lemon barley as well as Pakola. On Sundays, they serve a wholesome halwa puri breakfast also, which I’m definitely going to give a shot to.
Originally published in Dawn, January 27th, 2019