Locale Profiles: Rasoi

Main Street in East Greenwich recently acquired an Indian Restaurant – Rasa. I live close by, so I’ve already spent many an evening dining there or getting take-out. It’s my new favorite place. The orasoiwner, who is always friendly and stops by my table to say hello, told me that Rasa is the sister restaurant to Providence’s Kebab and Curry and Pawtucket’s Rasoi.  I’ve eaten at the first and decided I needed to try the latter. Could it be as good as its brethren?

Rasoi is located in a small strip mall at the end of Blackstone Boulevard, near the popular Wildflour Vegan Bakery. Outside it’s not remarkable. The interior, however, feels warm and exotic; everything is draped in royal blue and marigold. A large square bar sits in the center of the room with the kitchen behind it, giving the restaurant a cozy ambiance, like you’re in someone’s home (albeit one decorated exclusively from Pier One).

I met my sister-in-law and two small nephews – ages 3 and nine months – for dinner. If the boys could eat the food, this was no place for me. I like my food spicy – the hotter the better, which is why Indian is one of my favorite cuisines. I understand that most ethnic restaurants tame down their food for the American palate, but must we be completely devoid of heat?

To test them out I started my meal with the 727 Spicy Cucumber Avenue cocktail: cucumber slices steeped in Tanqueray Gin, curry leaves, coconut water and whole red chilies. The drink arrived in a mason jar, red chilies floating amongst the ice. I took one sip and declared: best cocktail ever. The drink was clean, refreshing and definitely spicy. I could barely taste the gin, but it was there for sure; for halfway through I felt ready to get up and dance along with the Bollywood music videos playing on the screen above the bar. For the record, I didn’t.

The food menu was slightly overwhelming, but only because every item listed sounded delectable. For an appetizer we ordered a proven Rasa favorite: Cauliflower 65. I’m not sure where the number 65 comes into play, ditto with the cocktail’s 727, and my curiosity is piqued. If you go, please ask and let me know.

Anyway, the cauliflower is deep fried in a crispy batter, and sautéed in a sweet spicy glaze. The taste is exquisite, with enough heat to set my mouth ablaze for the rest of the meal. It’s like General Tso’s chicken, but with cauliflower … and so much tastier. The batter and sauce are so good, they could have fried up my napkin in it and it would have been delicious. Don’t miss this dish.

The menu had items not offered at Rasa, so I wanted to try something different for our entrees. We opted for the Pepper Chicken Curry and Okra Masala. Each meal came with a choice of brown rice, basmati rice or masala potatoes. We decided to try the potatoes and basmati rice, forgoing the healthiest option. For my nephews we ordered some lentil soup and garlic and green onion naan.

The food came at a leisurely pace – slow enough that we could enjoy our cauliflower and cocktails, but not so long that my nephews got restless. I’d been slightly skeptical about our choice of okra, but when it arrived, all skepticism disappeared. The okra was lightly fried and surrounded by an array of colorful vegetables, all of which were covered in a unique mint masala sauce. The pepper chicken was also outstanding: tender chunks of white meat simmering in a creamy pepper curry.

I’m happy to say that most of the food – soup included – were too spicy for my nephews to eat. The 3-year-old, who can tolerate a fair amount of spice, ate some of the chicken and rice but couldn’t handle his soup. The poor baby cried after a small taste. To be clear, I’m not happy that my nephews left hungry and in pain. I’m just thrilled that an Indian restaurant could deliver on spice.

I’m loyal to Rasa, but next time I’m in Pawtucket I’ll head to Rasoi, especially over India. It’s nice there and all, but when you have to ask for Sriracha at an Indian restaurant, you know you’re not getting anything authentic (they don’t have it by the way).

Rasoi is located at 727 East Ave., Pawtucket; open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
http://indianrestaurantsri.com/rasoi/

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