Roti Indian Bistro - San Francisco, California

roti-bistro-san franciscoLocated in the West Portal district of San Francisco, Roti Indian Bistro is a small yet wonderful restaurant serving eclectic Indian food. A place that's really hard to get reservations for, we were finally able to make it to this restaurant last week for dinner, and everyone at the table was happy with what we got. But as a chef and a food-critic who loves trying out new restaurants, I personally felt that it was a good experience, but I don't think it was one of my best experiences, especially with all the hype I'd heard about it. Neverthless, Roti Bistro is a better than average Indian restaurant in San Francisco, and surely deserves a few words of credit.

Located in the busy portal district, Roti Indian Bistro is a small place, compared to other grand indian restaurants I've seen elsewhere. But the cute place is nicely decorated to make the dining room a warm and inviting space with dramatic colors on the walls, soft light, and photos and paintings that portray the rich cultural essence of India. The kitchen at the end of the dining room can be seen from any seat, and you can watch the cooks in action. The owners, Rustom and his wife, are Burmese, but they are well-versed with Indian food, its tastes and methods of preparation. All of the wait staff is extremely well-trained, courteous and efficient. But they are not too helpful if you are new to Indian food and need real suggestions! Our waitress just recited the house specials as recommendations, and I knew she wasn't as conversant with indian food as expected.

Roti's is the first menu where we could NOT find "Malai Kofta" or "Paneer Butter Masala". Can you believe that? We went for the next best- Paneer Makhani, Bhindi Masala, which was tasty, hence compensated for us not finding our favorites on the menu. The appetizers are strictly ok, nothing glamorous here. The Tandoori section offers a better variety, but there's not a single vegetarian entry, not even Paneer Tikka! That was a huge negative for me!

They have a range of veg and non-veg curries, with loads of options for lamb, chicken and seafood lovers. The breads are also average; we simply ordered the Assorted Bread Basket which comes with Roti, Garlic & Basil naan, and Onion Kulcha - again, just ordinary. The Mango Lassi was $5.00, and I was shocked at the exorbitant price! The Drinks menu had quite a few indian classics, like Kingfisher beer and other premium wines. The Kulfi was really nice for the dessert, and I'd recommend it for sure.

Roti Bistro is a high-end restaurant, and you can expect a tab of at least $20-$25 per person. But be prepared for this - SFO now has a policy of mandatory health-care, and apparently, most of the restaurants add this to you bill, and at Roti Bistro, it was 4.5% of our bill; and that's besides a 15% gratuity!! I think that's outrageous, and would seriously make me think twice about visiting again!

To sum up, on the positive side, the food is good, and the ambience is pleasant. But there are several negatives to consider - very small space makes it difficult to get reservations, the open kitchen combined with the small space makes it a bit stuffy, especially if you are right next to the kitchen, and I think the food is definitely not worth the price. So I'd rate this restaurant a 3.5/5, maybe because I'd prefer Shiva's, Darbar or Amber India restaurant any day over this place. But for someone who's in the area and is looking for Indian food in San Francisco and doesn't mind blowing off some money, you can try to give Roti Bistro a chance and see for yourself!

53 W Portal Ave
San Francisco, CA 94127
(415)- 665-7684
Roti Indian Bistro

Roti Indian Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Anonymous said...

I agree! its only hype, the food is good, but the service is not that great..we had to wait for 45 mins even when tables were empty just because we didn't have reservations!

Anonymous said...

we really enjoyed the food, the chicken tikka was awesome, and the kesar kulfi is just amazing! but we went on a week night, maybe that's why we didn't see it full:)


KALVA said...

hmm wish we lived near by..