Roll and Dough

You've gotta love a place with an Atkins-be-damned name like "Roll and Dough." It pretty much says: no focus groups were involved in the creation of this restaurant. And, since this is not a site for people who avoid carbs, an insidious mental disorder that results in low blood sugar and general peevishness, Roll and Dough seemed the perfect place to start.

It was immediately apparent from the street that the interior decorator's budget was low. For one thing, the giant menu propped up against the counter bore the name of the sister restaurant, not this one. Apparently there's something called Unique Pastry in Queens, which is why this shop is famous. But wait, this sign says "Unique Fast Food." Whatever. Their stores are unique, okay? All of them.

Inside I was relieved to find a pair of Chinese lady diners. This was a welcome change from other Asian restaurants in the environs, like Café Spice, where the food and patrons convey the general concept "spice," but in a watered-down, vague way, much like the non-spiciness of the Spice Girls. Not that there could be any doubt that Roll and Dough was actually the real thing: the counter guys wore the bizarre uniform of bright orange tee shirts and fake Burberry visors, presumably straight from Chinatown.

Bings, their specialty, are basically Chinese bagels without the hole. The warm, crunchy exterior is coated in sesame seeds and the inside is squishy dough. But whereas the Jews were content to stop there, the Chinese decided to take it up a notch and stuff the savory roll with spicy chicken, pork or vegetables.
I love rolls and dumplings filled with surprises! One of the bings even has sweet taro root in it as a contrast to the savory sesame. Even the plain steamed rolls, puffed up with a mixture of hoisin-y pork and cabbage, exceeded my expectations.

Why aren't there more of these fabulous treats-hidden-in-dough combos in Western cooking? It's just so genius, and a pleasure to eat. Chinese chefs truly understand the psychology of their diners. We are all children who want to be pleasantly surprised by color, flavor, and texture. Roll and Dough scores high points in all three categories.

Roll and Dough
135 W. 3rd Street at Sixth Avenue