New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Kolachi’s rolls put Pakistani food on the campus map

The newly-opened Karachi-inspired restaurant in the East Village serves up affordable yet filling parathas and fries.
Krish Dev
Kolachi, a Pakistani restaurant that opened on Nov. 2, is located on 130 1st Ave. (Krish Dev for WSN)

Kolachi, a new Pakistani restaurant in the East Village, brings the taste of Karachi to NYU students with its simple menu of hearty paratha rolls and spicy fries. 

The restaurant, located on the corner of First Avenue and St. Marks Place, opened on Nov. 2 and boasts a five-star rating on Google Maps. Married couple and co-founders Saif Qazi and recent Stern graduate Kiran Lutfeali developed the idea for Kolachi in 2018. The couple came to the United States in 2012, and decided to name their restaurant after the original name of Karachi, their home city.

“We missed Pakistani food and went around looking for food that reminded us of home and satisfied those cravings and didn’t really find anything,” Qazi said. “Nobody here was really doing Pakistani food the right way.”

The menu focuses on just three flavorful rolls, all under $10: chicken and beef, each for $6.50, and a plant-based option for $8. All of the protein options are flame-grilled, marinated in a house-blend of spices reminiscent of the street carts in Karachi, and encased in a flaky-yet-crispy fried paratha. The rolls are also filled with onions and a creamy mint-and-yogurt chutney, balancing out the spice from the proteins.

A restaurant worker uses a tong to fry two parathas in oil.
The rolls are encased in a flaky yet crispy parathas, which are fried in oil. (Krish Dev for WSN)

“Karachi has a vast canvas in cuisine,” Qazi said. “There’s over 100 different items there with very different concepts and flavors, so we went with something that we thought would immediately resonate to New Yorkers.” 

The restaurant’s fourth menu item, the Diesel Fries for $4.50, give a unique twist to the traditional french fries common in burger joints. The fries are coated with a peppery and tangy masala that gives them a salty kick and aims to recreate the flavor profile of fries sold on the streets of Karachi.

“We call them Diesel Fries because in Karachi you get fries on the street from home kitchen fryers powered by diesel generators,” Qazi said. “When you walk up to them, you smell the diesel before you even get to the cart.” 

To balance out the spice, Kolachi serves the fries with an unexpected condiment — maple syrup. The dip is a play on the sugar syrup typically served with the fries in Karachi, as well as the chicken-and-waffles dish common in Southern restaurants.

There are other restaurants near campus, like Thelewala and The Kati Roll Company on MacDougal Street, that serve similar South Asian-style parathas. However, Lutfeali said that Kolachi’s rolls are set apart by their unique cultural spice blend.

“There’s a lot of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi food, but they are clobbered together so no one knows which is which,” Lutfeali said. “There is a different flavor profile in Karachi and the food you get here is just not the same we grew up eating.”

Six flame-grilled and marinated chicken skewers on a pan.
The chicken gets skewered and flame-grilled before getting placed in the roll. (Krish Dev for WSN)

The restaurant’s close proximity to the Third Avenue North, Founders and Alumni residence halls makes it ideal for students tired of eating the bland South Asian offerings of Chaat House and Crave NYU. The couple said they kept the area’s student population in mind when they opened and aimed to be a go-to late-night snack joint, evidenced by their closing time of midnight.

“Our food is fast, easy and cheap, and that profile fits with students and we’re lucky to be surrounded by NYU,” Lutfeali said. “The East Village is new and vibrant, and there are so many different types of cuisines around here. So, that’s why we settled on it.”

Lutfeali said the first two weekends since the restaurant’s opening have been resounding successes, with Kolachi garnering a wave of positive reviews, some even saying the rolls remind customers of Karachi. While both Qazi and Lutfeali currently have day jobs outside of Kolachi, they hope the restaurant will continue to succeed, allowing them to fully dedicate their time and energy on Kolachi.

“This is our first restaurant and there were a lot of surprises, but it has been exciting,” Lutfeali said. “It’s been a roller coaster of emotions because it’s something that’s so close to us. It’s our food that we’re trying to bring to New York. We just went through a lot of hurdles, but none of it was unpleasant. It was all a learning experience for the next location.”

Two flame-grilled and marinated beef skewers on a pan.
The beef for the roll is flame-grilled and marinated. (Krish Dev for WSN)

Contact Krish Dev and Naisha Roy at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Krish Dev, Multimedia Editor
Krish is a first-year planning to major in Computer Science and Linguistics at CAS. In his free time, he enjoys posting photos on @krish_dev.creations, obsessing over geography, watching new films with friends, taking public transport to new places and letting Arsenal make or break his week.
Naisha Roy, Editor-at-Large
Naisha Roy is a second-year studying journalism and Spanish & Linguistics. She loves covering topics like immigration issues and NYU policies. In her free time, she's probably doing the daily crossword or cooking while listening to Taylor Swift. She loves spending her weekends finding cheap food spots around the city with her four best friends. You can reach out to her on Instagram @naisharoy9 if you ever need to rant about how AP Style doesn't use the Oxford Comma.

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