Lunch amongst the lucky ones

The four years I spent in Gainesville, Florida during college were filled with a lot of the same when it came to food: pizza (of the cheap, greasy, late night variety), burgers, pitas (Pita Pit what what!) and all manner of microwaved garbage when I ate at home.  So earlier this week, when I passed a large group of kids in Greenwich Village who I assumed were in town for NYU orientation (the purple “Class of 2018” stickers gave them away…and also horrified me), I thought about how nice it must be for them to have so many amazing food options, manycontrary to popular beliefnot even that expensive.

Think of it as the burrito's Indian cousin.

Think of it as the burrito’s Indian cousin.

Case in point: the cheap and so very delicious lunch I had at The Kati Roll Company on MacDougal Street, in the thick of all things NYU.

Quick, easy and tasty, what's not to love?

Quick, easy and tasty, what’s not to love?

Kati rolls are an Indian street food of sorts, basically different meats, veggies and other fillings rolled into crepe like flatbreads called paratha. I ordered the unda shami roll, a delicious rolled up mix of minced lamb, lentil croquettes and a thin layer of beaten eggs. The paratha was thick enough to hold everything but light and soft in taste and texture, and didn’t take away from the heartier, spicy filling inside. The spices in the lamb and in the lentil croquettes made for bright, rich flavors and the egg was just enough to give it a softer, almost buttery flavor without making it taste like a full on breakfast wrap. (Though I might point out that I would gladly eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner.)

If I could do college all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing (because crappy pizza aside, my days in Gainesville were some of my favorite) but man, would it have been nice to have delicious things like Cambodian sandwiches, Ukranian pierogis, italian bomboloni and now Indian kati rolls. I hope all these new kids in the city know just how good they have it.

 

The Kati Roll Company on Urbanspoon

Thai Market, daydreamed and real

When my newly married friends Vanessa and Jon recently honeymooned in Thailand, I went along with them. Well, not really, not physically in the third wheel sense (cause how awkward would that be?) but vicariously through the Instagram pictures Vanessa posted daily.

In my Thai reveries I lounge around deserted beaches, play with baby elephants and feel small before giant Buddha statues, just like my married friends did, but mostly in my daydreams, I roam around the food markets, eating all sorts of things. And because it’s a daydream and not real, nothing has a single calorie. (In the beach part of my daydream, I look damn good in my bikini.)

Vanessa’s street food stories, like the ones I read on another favorite blog, The Londoner, left me with not only more wanderlust than ever, but with a ravenous hunger for Thai food. So when I asked a friend for a lunch recommendation on the Upper West Side earlier this week and she suggested a place called Thai Market, it was just what I needed.

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Tom yum goong soup. Emphasis on the yum.

To start, I had the tom yum goong soup, a reddish-brown blend of tangy, zesty lemongrass, tamarind, juicy shrimp, and plump, soft mushrooms.  It was colorful and warming, with just enough spicy heat to give my tongue a tingly little prickle without breaking out into full on nose sweats.

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Pad kee mao… that means give me more, right?

After it, at the server’s suggestion, I ordered the pad kee mao, large, flat rice noodles with tender strips of chicken, Thai basil, chili, tomato and bok choi. It wasn’t crazy hot but this time I definitely had to guzzle cold water throughout eating it. The flavors, like the colors of the different ingredients, were bold and bright, with chunks of bright green peppers, juicy tomatoes and red swirls of chili oil all mixing around in the most delicious way.

The restaurant’s overall look is supposed to transport you to Thailand, with giant photos of markets as a backdrop, along with Thai street signs and large red umbrellas that kind of make you feel like you’re outside. I popped in for lunch, and while I don’t doubt that the food sold by street vendors and at markets is way better and cheaper, Thai Market’s $8 lunch special makes it a pretty good alternative for being on the UWS.

Thai Market on Urbanspoon

Mission: perfect burrito

I’m not sure how I’m ever supposed to eat burritos again, not after the absolute-perfection-in-burrito-form I had for lunch today.

All other burritos will live in the shadow of the delicious one I had at Danny Bowien’s California style taqueria, Mission Cantina, in the Lower East Side, not far from his short-lived (but hopefully soon to be resurrected) Mission Chinese Food.

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Mission Cantina’s carne asada burrito

Before bringing his restaurants to New York, Danny Bowien was a big deal in San Francisco, where phenomenal tacos and burritos are easy to find, and clearly he picked up a thing or two and brought it to the east coast, cause the burrito I had today was a 10 clear across the board.

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So much awesome in just one handful

For starters, instead of being filled with tons of gut-filling rice, sad wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes, this bad boy (easily shareable between two people if you don’t have a the bottomless pit of a stomach that I do) was stuffed, generously and evenly throughout, with  carne asada, beans, guacamole, crema, queso blanco and salsa fresca. The carne asada, which I went with on the server’s recommendation (other choices were lamb, carnitas, fried skate, veggie, chicken and al pastor) was oh-so-soft and juicy, tender and full of flavor. The guacamole lent a creamy freshness to balance the hearty, rich beans, and the cheese did what it always does, made everything better. It was a wonderfully messy, saucy affair with juices running down my hands and my cloth napkin working overtime, and I loved every minute of it.

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Even the chips are delicious!

The tortilla which let’s be honest, no one ever cares about was more than just a vessel for burrito goodness. Tortillas are made in house, and it shows, because instead of being bland and rubbery, this one actually tasted like something you’d want to finish, or to use as a sponge for all of the burrito juice run off. And to really push itself into the realm of greatness, the tortilla had a slight golden crisp to it, from where the burrito had been lightly seared for a perfect finish.The burrito alone was enough to make me an instant fan but Mission Cantina really sealed the deal with its accompanying tortilla chips. Usually an afterthought or distraction, these were anything but. Each one was thick and crunchy, fried in house and dusted in a punchy, colorful blend of spices that made it impossible not to each every last crumb of them. Two salsas, a tangy, avocado filled green sauce and a thicker, smoky red one were served with them, but almost not necessary because of how good they were on their own.

Burritos of New York, I’m not sure things will ever be the between us. Mission Cantina, I’m all yours.

Mission Cantina on Urbanspoon