A few weeks ago, Brendan and I formed our very own New Year’s resolution-like pledge — to eat at more restaurants in our neighborhood. Since moving back from Mexico City in 2010, we’ve been living in Astoria, Queens, but doing a dismal job of getting out and sampling the local eateries, which range from real street food (none of that silly cupcake food truck stuff you see in Manhattan) to white tablecloth service. We like it all, but it sure is hard to find the time, especially when the couch and Netflix beckon so strongly night after night.
Last night, though, we stepped out for first eating adventure: Roti Boti, a Pakistani-Indian joint on 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard. We’ve always been intrigued by this place, which seems to cater to taxi drivers. It must be good, right?
When you first walk in, you’re met by a long row of glassed-in buffet trays with steaming food. There are no signs we could read, but we did locate a tiny menu taped to the window, scribbled in English, with prices. Luckily, an older man walked up and asked us for our order, and we pointed to various things, and asked what they were. He fired off the names of everything on the line, most of it various types of chicken dishes, in sauces. Trying to get a variety of stuff, we ordered lentils, chickpeas, chicken tikka, and naan. Not sure what to do next, we wandered over to the dining area, and sat down. (Some of the patrons seemed to be going directly up to the buffet and serving themselves — not sure what that was about.)
And a feast soon arrived, plate by plate. First, salads with a spicy yogurt dressing, likely a type of raita (but much spicier). The server also brought us cups and a full pitcher of cold water, which was handy because we didn’t order drinks. Then all our food arrived in rapid order.
The two helpings of naan were perfection — crispy and a little burned on the outside, doughy and hot on the inside. Also, the size of a large dinner plate.
The chickpeas — akin to chana masala — were good, if a little overcooked and mushy (but still quite palatable). Ditto to the yellow curry lentils, which were similar to mung dal.
The showcase item was definitely the chicken tikka. They serve it very spicy, and chargrilled to perfection. Without the naan and cold water to help me get through it, I’m not sure I could have eaten all my chicken, as savory as it was — it was that spicy.
All told, we were stuffed. Best of all? Total price: $17.