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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop

In NYC, “Ali” is to Trinidadian roti what “Ray” is to Pizza: the go-to name. But don't be fooled, friend. Not all Ray's are “original,” and not every Ali was created equal. Take Ali of Fulton Street. His business card reads “Not Affiliated With Any Other Ali Roti Stores,” and we sympathize. This Ali wants to stand alone, because this Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop is a cut above its Brooklyn competition.Ali's appeal starts with the space: sunny in the summers and cozy in cooler weather. The scent of savory curries and the buzz of a loyal, patient clientèle foster a welcoming, lackadaisical vibe. They even keep a few tables with mismatched chairs, enough to seat you, your friends, and all the roti you can polish.Consider starting with a doubles. Trinidad's least photogenic street food is also its most celebrated, and Ali's rendition didn't let us down. He stuffs unusually light and chewy fried dough with chickpea curry, a delicious concoction whose nice dark color and rich tangy flavor reveal a welcomed restraint with the coconut milk.
Chicken Curry ...
... and Shrimp with Spinach

Leave some room in the tank, tho; Ali's roti are a course worthy of the title “main.” The shells are fresh and spongy, with a thin layer of peas providing solid dahl flavor. And the fillings have never disappointed. Chicken Curry is the most popular amongst regulars, and we certainly appreciated the terrific mix of meat parts (tender boneless chunks, but also moist legs and sumptuous shoulders) slow-stewed in a delicious, mildly seasoned sauce. This is supremely comforting food, if nothing neat to eat.

For a more manageable option consider the Shrimp Roti. We always order ours “easy on the potatoes” with Spinach. It's an addictive, impressively buoyant combination for a dish that (at lesser spots) sinks something heavy in the stomach. Although we've been stuck on this mix since summer, Ali personally recommended we branch out to the liver or oxtail as well. So more adventurous readers take note; two red-blooded options await.
Wild Style Menu

If the stars are aligned, you might even wash everything down with a drink. Let me emphasize the word if. Ali's beverages sound like old school rappers – Double Trouble, P-Nut Punch, Busta, T.Dad OJ, Solo, Agony, and (token white boy?) Irish Moss – but I have yet to see a single one in-stock. Having only sampled the Mauby and Sorrel, I fear the drink menu is largely decorative. Either that or the cool things go fast. One patron gave the Peanut Punch high marks, but we have yet to sample it firsthand.
The Mellow Fellow: Ali breaks down his culinary charm

We can, however, vouch for the man himself. In a phrase, Ali exudes the Relaxing Spirit of Roti. He took some time to shoot the breeze, and gave us a history of the changing Fulton neighborhood; his 15+ years at the current location; his expansion from occupying a small space in back to taking over the entire storefront; his work as an engraver and graphic artist (note all the fly signs); his love of Halal meats, which he buys daily from 3 or 4 trusted local butchers; his emphasis on freshness, delicacy of seasoning, and consistency in quality.
Nuts N' Pins

These high standards – fresh, healthy, delicious – are what keep the people coming back for more. And Ali's family works hard to satisfy, trimming meats, preparing curries, and creating flavorful dishes on the daily. It's a harmonious experience, and one that reflects the truly mild style of the chefs and their creations.

As for how Ali keeps this flavor train rolling year after year? One simple mantra: “You have to be cool.” And that about says it, good reader. Cool Ali's is #1 in the hood, g. It's why we keep heading back for more, and why we suggest you do the same.



Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop
1267 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
(718) 783-0316

Open til the food runs out, every day except Sunday. Late afternoon/early evening ensures greatest variety of offerings.

Roti are around $6 or $7; doubles $1; drinks $2

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Ali's!!! Best roti in town and the vegetarian soup is amazing.havent been back to brooklyn in years and i really appreciate these pics.imagine
seeing the friendly faces of folks who served me delicious food time and again in my native hometown online.Life is crazy sometimes.

5:49 PM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

no doubt, brooklyn's #1 feel-good roti spot... glad we could bring back some of the memories

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best Roti by far in Brooklyn. The food is always fresh and is light years ahead of the competition when it comes to taste.

9:51 PM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

i have to agree anon, there are some other good spots around but Ali is the one i always head back to...

8:10 AM  
Anonymous BourbonHead said...

Bruh, Ali's (Fulton) is quite tasty, but not even close to Royal Roti Shop on Nostrand betw Dean/Pacific. Their peanut punch and sorrel is home made. The "Buss Up Shot" you'll kill for!!

9:36 PM  
Anonymous ReP said...

I gave Ali's a big shoutout in my music video Pride Expression (which you can check via of youtube or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV-e_4XcoZg )

12:43 PM  

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