Samosas with Homemade Mint and Tamarind Chutneys, Chicken Tikka Masala, Tandoori Fish
Occupation: Criminal Records Tech
Location: Daly City
Favorite Restaurant: Rotee
Reviewed Rotee: Thursday May 17, 2007
With the first step into Rotee, the smell of fresh spices and grilled foods greets you, and all worries about this “edgy” neighborhood in the Lower Haight and the hunt for parking begin to disappear. The small, 15 table restaurant is vibrantly colored with walls of mustard and saffron hues. Bollywood posters hang from the walls and the atmosphere is casual and relaxed.
We choose to sit by the window for a better view of the interesting street corner. A friendly, young waitress promptly comes over, and since menus are already on the tables, she tells us of the night’s special: pumpkin curry. There is a cart of hot Chai tea in the corner of the room, but we order a large Taj Mahal beer, knowing it will come ice-cold with frosty-cold pilsner glasses, and pick up our menus and begin to read the entertaining descriptions of each dish and start the process of trying to choose which dish to have on this visit. The menu is same for both lunch and dinner.
We finally make our choices and I order the chicken tikka masala, one of the house specialties, and a dish I find myself craving at times. My husband chooses the Bollywood Lamb Gosht and we agree to try a different biriyani: the Kaabli Chana. Of course we have to order some naan, and to begin this feast we must have samosas. Just as our server is leaving, we decide that we should also try the night’s special and order the pumpkin curry.
The samosas are hot and crispy and come with homemade mint and tamarind chutneys. They are stuffed with soft, creamy mashed potato spiced with a combination of cumin and allspice. There is an occasional snap of a green pea as it bursts in your mouth. They disappear all too quickly.
The rest of our food arrives and our small table becomes very crowded with the white ceramic platters, bowls, plates and a basket of hot naan, fresh from the oven. I begin by scooping up some of the chicken tikka masala and taste a tender, velvety piece of chicken, bathed in the rich tomato-yogurt sauce.
My husband grabs a spoonful of the gosht and declares the lamb succulent and the spicy heat perfect. The tomatoes and onions in this dish are perfectly cooked, both still having some crunch to them and complimenting the spices, which have an after burn effect — so delicious. Both dishes go well with the Kaabli Chana biriyani with garbanzo beans bursting through the jasmine rice, flaked with chopped cilantro.
It is time to try the night’s special and it does not disappoint. It is a rich, saffron-colored curry sauce with bits of squash and potato. It is actually a lighter taste than appears, and the squash is just tender enough without being mushy. The flavor of this curry is more delicate rather than piquant. The fresh naan is perfect for mopping up all the sauces of each dish.
We are completely satisfied with our meal and with the large volume of food we ordered, we will be enjoying it again at home. I could not save any chicken tikka masala, though. It is just too good to stop eating!
During our meal, the owner greeted us and remembered us from earlier visits. He told us they have been open since 2003. He thanked us for coming and looked forward to seeing us again — and he will.
The total cost for enough food to feed four or more people with two large beers came to around $50.00. For quality and quantity of food, relaxing, easy going and friendly atmosphere, great service, Rotee is an A1, A+ bargain.
In conclusion, Rotee is an overlooked gem in the “rough” part of the Lower Haight. The neighborhood is showing signs of improvement of late and the owners are confident it will continue. The food is not the usual, tired Indian food buffet, but a fun and tasty example of affordable Pakistani/Indian cuisine. Rotee gives phenomenal “bang for the buck” and deserves to be introduced to the wider audience of lovers of Indian cuisine.
Occupation: Middle School Teacher
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pauline’s Pizza
Reviewed Rotee: Friday, June 1, 2007
The atmosphere at Rotee is modern, bright, boisterous, and laid-back. The dining room is decorated with bright colors and movie posters creating a fun setting. The clever menu descriptions echo the spirit of the décor.
We visited Rotee on a Friday night when the restaurant was filled with groups of friends and young couples out for a casual meal. We were seated immediately, but noticed right away that our server seemed a little rushed. It appeared that only she and one other server were responsible for the whole dining room. Although she didn’t really have time to give her recommendations, she was very friendly. Others in her situation might have been curt to the customers, but she remained happy and upbeat the whole evening.
We started our meal with drinks, samosas, and vegetable pakora. Really, what’s not to like about these fried appetizers? I thought that these were particularly well done, as they were not at all greasy. The samosas were light and flaky on the outside and filled with creamy potatoes, while the pakora was dipped in a satisfying batter that did not overwhelm the cauliflower it coated. I ordered a glass of spicy Shiraz from Sula Vineyards in India. I had never had Indian wine before, so that was exciting. I’m not sure that it will make onto my favorites list, but I enjoyed my glass. (I understand that you can also bring your own wine to Rotee, and their corkage fee is only $10.)
We ordered several entrees to share including the chicken tikka masala, chicked Curry Grant, the Karahi Lamb, the lamb kabob wrap, and the Bangin’ Burtha (an eggplant dish). All of the dishes were very fresh, and I appreciated that none of them were too greasy. However, each dish was so similarly spiced that once they were on my plate, I had a hard time distinguishing among them. Although the sauces were good, the chicken tikka masala and the Curry Grant were mostly sauce. Both of these dishes had just a few pieces of chicken swimming in the bowls of sauce. (Good thing we ordered the biryani to soak it all up!) Similarly, the lamb was rather sparse in lamb kabob wrap and the result was dry and boring. Maybe the best part of the meal was the naan, which was served blistered and hot right from the oven.
For dessert we shared an order of the rice pudding, kheer. I am not really a fan of rice puddings in general because of the texture, but I thought the flavor of this one was nice. I especially liked the pistachio nuts crushed on top. However, my dinner companions, including two professed rice pudding fanatics, did not care for this one.
We definitely left the restaurant full — plus we had some leftovers with us — and our total bill was nothing to complain about. We had a nice time at Rotee — the service, though not attentive, was friendly; the atmosphere, although a little too loud to talk easily, was festive; the food, while not great, was good. Everyone needs a cheap, casual favorite neighborhood restaurant. While this probably won’t become mine, I can certainly see why it is somebody’s.
Occupation: Residential Realtor
Location: San Jose
Favorite Restaurant: La Forêt Restaurant
Reviewed Rotee: Friday, June 1, 2007
The Rotee — meaning flat bread or simply bread and butter — is a surprisingly awesome place set in the middle of historic Haight Street of San Francisco. This restaurant epitomizes the meaning of delicious food at a good value. It has been established since 2004, and I’m sure it will stand the test of time. At first glance, one would think its decor is sort of plain with simple tables and chairs and brightly colored walls. However, when the meal arrives in all its splendid color, you realize the brightly colored walls are identical to the spices used for the scrumptious food. My guest and I shared a fabulous mixture of tandoori specials. A spicey (not hot) chicken tikka had the color of a ripe orange and the tenderness of a baby’s bottom. Simply put, it was perfectly prepared and tasted delicious with basmati rice, which is cooked in savory spices and golden onions.
We also loved the tandoori fish — a succulent catfish that doesn’t have to fish for compliments. Again the brightly colored yellow spice used for the fish matched one of the colors used on the restaurant walls. This was the first dish that we completely finished, and the last piece was cut in half to both appease my bride and my guest. They loved it.
We also shared a sizable portion of tandoori lamb chops. The dish was an amazing taste of lamb, marinated in a colorful spice that again was used as a color accent in the restaurant. As the menu says, eating this dish will add a new “chopter” to your life.
All three dishes were a delight. None were too spicy and when complemented by the basmati rice and garlic naan (round flat bread with a light garlic spice), they made a complete meal.
It was just perfect, right down to the water pitcher always being full. I drink a lot of water and it means a lot if I don’t have to constantly ask for water.
The waiter was very pleasant and helpful in describing the dishes and since this is not my typical choice of food, his help made the decisions easier to make. This night was all about the food, and we didn’t want to distract ourselves with alcoholic drinks, however they do offer a small selection of wine and beer. Their specialty drink is a mango lassi made of homemade yogurt blended with sweet mangoes. This was the perfect thirst quencher and a must-have to complement the spices of the meal.
This is a great neighborhood restaurant and it was quiet and peaceful. The surrounding mixtures of culture and color of the Haight District make it a perfect home for Rotee. There is metered parking just outside, and halfway down the block the parking is free.
You should expect the typical colorfulness of the Haight and expect a great meal with all the colorfulness of the spices and dishes of the Indian and Pakistani culture. Also, as a side note, whoever wrote the menu could write for the David Letterman show. Clearly, this person is a comedian in the making, who wrote wonderful mixture of well thought-out meals. For a table of three, we were pleasantly surprised to pay under $40.00 with tip. I would recommend it to any of my friends as a great place to go and enjoy the food other parts of the world bring to us in our wonderful Bay Area restaurants.