Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bombay Frankie

A sure way for a New York restaurant to get our business is to put the name “Bombay” in it. Adeet and I both associate Bombay/Mumbai with eating well, and any mention of the city triggers a discussion of our favorite foods. When we heard about a NYC spot called “Roti Roll Bombay Frankie,” we didn’t hesitate to give it a try.

A frankie is Mumbai’s version of the wrap. A griddled roti (flatbread) is piled with lamb, chicken, egg, vegetables, or paneer (cheese). Other parts of India have kati rolls, but Mumbai claims the frankie as its own. [Thank you for clarifying this, Mitali!] We overheard a customer ask, "Do they really call them 'frankies' in Bombay?" They do. Mumbaikers eat a fish called "Bombay duck.” Why not name a sandwich "frankie"?

Adeet ordered a chicken frankie, and I opted for unda, or egg. We watched the multitasking cook crack an egg on one side of the griddle and heat pieces of chicken on the other. He efficiently slid the fillings onto the rotis, added tomatoes, onions, and green sauce, and then wrapped them burrito-style. Adeet commented that in Bombay the sides are left open, but I appreciated the New York variation, especially since I had on a cream-colored top.

Frankies are street food, so the restaurant’s utilitarian décor didn’t surprise me. We sat on stools at a narrow metal counter and ate quickly. The atmosphere doesn’t encourage lingering, but at least the large front window allows for people watching.

We had asked for “medium spicy,” but my eggs could have used an extra dash of masala. Still, our meal was cheap and filling, and I imagine the wraps are popular with nearby Columbia students and late-night drinkers. The frankies don’t compare to the Bombay snacks we can get in Jackson Heights, and they’re no match for the gyros from Sammy’s. But we’ll go back, despite having to take two subways to get there.

Before we left, we told the owner how glad we were to find frankies in New York. It turns out he's from a Bombay neighborhood we know, and he and Adeet began chatting in Marathi. He appeared genuinely touched when Adeet complimented him and said it meant a lot that we liked his food.

We love the food in Bombay, in no small part because of the family and friends who share it with us. Our conversation with the owner gave us a Bombay connection here in New York, which is why we'll get his frankies again. Sometimes it’s the people, and not just the cooking, that bring us back.

Roti Roll Bombay Frankie
994 Amsterdam Ave. • NY, NY

photos by Adeet Deshmukh


Educated Tatya said...

A kati kabab roll is a convenient way of eating your roti and kababs together. The chutney and sliced onions are usual accompaniments to any kabab meal. But the frankie! The franky is a Bombay invention. The tangy, saucy chicken is not from an traditional recipe and is drizzled with vinegar. Also, an egg is broken over the maida (refined flour used to make naans and not chapattis) roti to make a roti-omelette and then the chicken, onion and chaat powder is rolled up together.
Now I have to order one.

Kate Deshmukh said...

Ah, you need to come to NYC and educate the masses!

Adam said...

I had a dream once where I walked out of CDG Airport and found myself not in France but in the desert of northern Mali. Windswept, trackless, bescorpioned. So I'm wandering around when in the distance I see signs of life. People! I arrive to find a group of Mexicans playing Scrabble. In Irish. I also find that I'm fluent in Irish.

But that was just a dream. Roti Roll Bombay Frankie is real.