Locale Profile: Rasa: So Much More than Just Great Food

I’ve referenced Rasa, my current favorite dining spot in East Greenwich, in a few of my other write-ups but never wrote about it on its own. Since it’s been around for almost two years now, it’s sort of old news in these here parts.  Sometimes, however, a dining experience is so special that you need to share it with the world (or the world known as Rhode Island). That was my experience last Thursday.

Six of us suburban housewives met for dinner for a much-needed break from our 24/7 summer families. When we arrived, Santosh, the uber-friendly manager, greeted us with his familiar smile. He definitely has a knack for remembering faces because every time I eat there, he comes up to my table to say hello and treats me like the regular that I am. This is big for me because no one ever remembers me … ever.  I’m not sure if it’s the generic height, weight and hair color or the fact that my face is just that forgettable, but I often feel like Adam Sandler must have felt in Fifty First Dates. At Rasa, however, I’m not just a face in the crowd, which is sort of nice.

So back to the food. The hostess provided us with the regular menu and their new summer menu, which contained some limited-time dishes and one cocktail — the cilantro limetini – an enticing concoction of vodka, St. Germain, muddled mint and cilantro topped off with simple syrup and fresh squeezed lime juice. I ordered one. My dining companion, a la When Harry Met Sally changed hers from vodka to gin and turned it from a martini to a cocktail by adding rocks. Our server/bartender Nathan was more than happy to oblige.

As we perused the menu, the drinks arrived and my cilantro limetini did not disappoint – perfectly tart, not too sweet and very refreshing. My Sally friend loved her version equally. We started with a bevy of appetizers:  the not-to-be missed cauliflower 65 (cauliflower deep-fried and doused in a spicy sweet sauce) and always reliably delicious samosas. We also tried the summer special: crispy okra tossed with peppers in a special house-cured indo-Chinese sauce (I still have no idea what that means but my translation = scrumptious). Nathan tried to convince us to order the mussels Malabar (mussels served in a coconut lime curry broth) but wanting to save our appetites we declined. I felt slightly remorseful as I’d ordered them on my last trip to Rasa and they were outstanding, especially when served with an order of garlic naan for dipping in that delectable broth.

After enjoying our cocktail, our first bottle of pinot grigio and appetizers, we each ordered an entrée. Clearly we were under the spell of the gorgeous menu and limetinis, as six entrees ended up being way too much food. We didn’t care, however, as our taste buds were on fire and ready for more, so we ordered a little bit of everything to share.

I chose my favorite stand by: madras fish curry. I’m not a big fish eater, but this is the type of dish I fantasize about when I’m craving something spicy and flavorful. The fish is flaky and perfectly cooked – every time, even with take-out. The sauce is exotic and fiery.  Next we ordered both entrees from the summer menu:  lamb shank with vegetable stew and bagarey baingan — baby eggplants roasted and cooked in a savory tamarind-spiced coconut curry sauce. We rounded off our selection with chicken korma (Nathan’s spot-on suggestion over tikka masala), saag paneer, garlic shrimp and three orders of naan.

As the colorful array of dishes arrived, along with another bottle of wine, our palates reawakened. Each dish had its own unique flavor and spice, but all were delicious.  Now, as little as I like fish, I detest lamb. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to try the lamb special because it looked that good. The lamb shank fell off the bone, having been braised for hours. The braising liquid became a rich stew that complemented the lamb and took away that gamey flavor I so loathe. I liked it, but that’s as far as I’ll go. My lamb-loving dining companions, however, couldn’t get enough and I couldn’t deny the quality of the dish. That was the general consensus for all the dishes, as we all ooh’d and aaaah’d over the food while passing plates and sopping up sauces with coconut date naan. We took our time, savoring the food and wonderful company.

As the plates were cleared and wine bottles emptied, we looked around and realized that we were the only diners left. Actually, one friend pointed out that this had been the case for quite a while. We apologized profusely to Santosh and Nathan, only to be greeted with a smile and a “don’t worry about it! Stay as long as you like!” I’ve closed down many a restaurant in East Greenwich (which isn’t saying much about my stamina because they typically close around 10). At other establishments I’ve been politely asked to leave so they can close up, or worse, given the stare-down by servers anxious to get out and begin their own party. Not the case at Rasa, however, as we were welcomed to relax and finish our wine. We did just that, but not much longer as we didn’t want to overstay our welcome.

But Rasa is the type of place where you always feel welcome, long after the bill has been paid. You can sit at the bar and have Nathan craft you some special cocktails while providing you with his expert menu recommendations. You can linger at a table, as Santosh makes his way over to ensure that you’re enjoying yourself. The food will always be fantastic and the experience pleasurable. This, my friends, is why Rasa is, and will always be, my favorite East Greenwich haunt – summer, fall, winter and spring.

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