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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Food Porn: Kati Rolls And Thalis At Kasa Indian Eatery

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 4:46 PM

click to enlarge kasa_plate1.jpg

Place: Kasa Indian Eatery (4001 18th Street at Noe)

Occasion: Late lunch

Style: Calcutta-style Indian street food, otherwise described as "Indian taqueria."

Price: Lowish, take a gander.

Fancy Factor: Nil.

Rationale: San Francisco's Indian food selection being what it is (read: not so good), Kasa's appearance as a modern, casual, convenient option for Indian grub was greeted with jubilation by many local foodies, and by all appearances first-time restaurateurs Tim Volkema, Suresh Khanna, and Chef Anamika Khanna have delivered: stark, industrial design, efficient counter service, and a simple yet highly focused menu centered around the traditional Indian flatbread known as roti. But the big question remains: does it taste good?

Follow the jump for the up close and personal ...

Favorite Dish: Lamb curry kati roll.

Least Favorite Dish: Karahi paneer kati roll.

The Skinny: Any place billed as an Indian taqueria is worth checking out, and a lot of people have been doing just that since Kasa opened last month. There's no denying it's a great concept: drag Indian food out of the standard sit-down equation, pare it down to a few core basics (curries, tikka, roti), and serve it in the manner well-honed by local taquerias. According to co-owner Tim Volkema, Kasa found its genesis in a "blank slate approach to the Indian restaurant," that pays homage to Indian street food culture (Calcutta specifically) by building the menu around the theoretically-mobile kati roll. The menu consists of six dishes available as kati rolls (two for $8.95) or alternately as the larger thali plate ($10.95), with occasional daily specials.

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Two views of the chicken tikka thali plate ($10.95). Charbroiled free-range chicken with marinated onions and chutney, plated as a "deconstructed kati roll" served with slow-simmered daal, basmati rice, a garnish salad and riata.

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First, let's talk about the plate: segmented, polished chrome. Very cool. This is the kind of plate that makes me want to eat off it, for nothing else, so I can view my own slovenly reflection after I'm done. The chicken was well-cooked and lovingly seasoned, as was the lentil daal. In fact, it was all delicious. The rice was surprisingly aromatic, with plentiful sweet whiffs of cardamom (possibly clove and/or cinnamon too), and the term "garnish" doesn't do the small pile of salad any justice. Loaded with fresh chunks of jicama, cabbage, and red pepper, all spiked with plenty of thin, vinegary dressing that cut through the heavier elements.

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Karahi paneer kati roll (two for $8.95). Wok-tossed Indian cheese with green peppers, marinated onions and chutney. The flavors were all spot-on, but I've come to expect paneer to be more on par with a slobbering plate of creamed spinach than anything that can be effectively wrapped.

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Lamb curry kati roll (two for $8.95). Plenty of pungent lamb flavor shining through, propped up by the tart and spicy slivers marinated red onions and small pieces of stewed potatoes. Dribble a giant glob of the yogurt cucumber riata on, and it's good to go. As a lifelong condiment whore, I have to give Kasa serious props on quality. The cilantro chutney, chunky and rustic, was perfect.

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The aforementioned garnish salad. It deserves a close-up.

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Limca Indian soda, curiously made by Coca-Cola. It tastes like Squirt with a hint of ginger (and a cooler label) and is apparently less bubbly than Sprite or 7-Up.

-- Brian Bernbaum

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Brian Bernbaum

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