Roti is warm inside, and dim and close. The ceiling is a rainbow grid of colored lights. Every support pillar has been bulked out with carved wooden facings lit from within, and every flat surface not expressly meant for the serving or consumption of pakora, naan or curry has been set with statues, delicately hammered tin bowls and towering sculptures of gods and goddesses riding horses or sitting lotus with looks of preternatural calm on their stone faces. The soft music, all drums and sitars and sharp discordance, seems to fall from above like rain.
This is what I like about Roti, what I fell for from the first moment I stepped inside. I like the space. I like the clutter and the closeness of it. I like the slightly threadbare feel of the place with its worn carpet and carefully laid tables, the weirdly bright buffet table in the back and the soft, cloth covers on the menus. The curvy tin cups that the waiters fill with water grow cold to the touch and make everything taste vaguely metallic--like well water drawn up from great depth. I like the quick, competent service, the hollow tap and scrape of metal spoons against metal bowls, the heavy, blunt silver and mismatched servingware of worn copper and the deep banquette along the right-hand wall which seems to enfold me when I sit there. I like the quiet of Roti, even when I am not the only one inside.
What I don't like is everything else.
Yeah, it's gonna be one of those kinds of weeks...
I didn't dislike everything at Roti, but I certainly didn't love it either. There were some serious problems--issues with prep, with the cooks, with recipes and presentation. On paper, Roti looked like it should've been a perfect place for me to get a fix of the Indian food I've been missing of late. In terms of inspiration, history, the values of the chef and his crew? It should've been fantastic. But see, on the one hand, there's what should have been, and then, on the other, this silly little thing called reality...
Check out my full review of Roti when the paper hits the stands (both real and virtual) tomorrow.