Some reviews are easier than others. Rasa on Main Street in East Greenwich is one of those places that makes the writing easy. It’s nice when the words can come flowing out of you while you’re still in the middle of eating dinner – because the dinner is just that good. Some places I write about are good, but may not be on the tip of my tongue when someone asks me, “Where’s someplace new I should eat?” More often than that question, I’m usually asked, “Where should I go for...” pizza or Italian or seafood or, in the case of this review, Indian cuisine.
For the last several years my answer to the Indian question has always been Rasoi in Pawtucket. Now I can split that answer with Rasa, which, not-so-coincidentally, is sister restaurant to Rasoi as well as Kabob and Curry in Providence. Rasa seems to be trying a little harder than its sibling restaurants, but then, it is brand new and East Greenwich has been a bit of a tough nut for new restaurants to crack.
Let’s get right to it, because you can tell you’re heading into an Indian restaurant almost before you’re in it. The smell of spices wafts out the door onto Main Street, and what a wonderful fragrance it is. Clearly visible from the street with it’s blue and orange exterior, that color scheme continues inside with some blue ornately painted walls and wall hangings dyed in shades of orange. There’s also a very modern looking bar with a lot of mirrors and the sadly obligatory (for some places) television. On the plus side, on a recent night we were there the TV was acting as the music player for the restaurant instead of showing some endless news or sports programming.
The service is very friendly and soon after sitting water glasses are filled and you’re given what seemed to be a dosa in the form of a cracker with two condiments: a red pepper relish with a good spicy kick, and a sweeter tamarind sauce. Try them together on the cracker, you won’t be disappointed. While my wife and I quickly polished off that treat we ordered a Red Berry Martini ($10) for her and a Tamarind Margarita ($10) for me. Rasa has a number of interesting cocktails, beers and other assorted non-alcoholic beverages, most with a very Indian edge. My wife loved her Red Berry Martini while for me it was a touch on the sweet side, and I very much enjoyed the Tamarind Margarita. I’ll be honest, I ordered the margarita thinking it could be overpowering but I wanted to give it a try. It was very well-balanced and great with the food.
For food we ordered the Paneer and Veg Skewer ($7.50) and Onion Bhaji ($5.50) to start. The Onion Bhaji, a golden fried fritter with a chickpea batter, was perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were great little bites of onion and chickpea. The Paneer and Veg Skewer wasn’t actually served as a skewer but was laid out on a long plate with a couple of tasty sauces, again one spicy and one sweet, on either side of the mild Indian cheese. There were pieces of bell pepper in between the Paneer slices for color and a small salad on one end of the plate. Both were very good vegetarian dishes that also happened to be gluten-free. The menu at Rasa includes many gluten-free options.
For dinner we had the Chicken Tikka Masala ($15.99) and Lamb Curry ($17.99) along with some Garlic and Cilantro Nan ($3.50). The portion sizes were very generous, and served with the accompanying Basmati rice separate from the meat and sauces, so that dishes could be easily shared. The Tikka Masala sauce with the roasted chicken is tomato and cream based. It’s a nicely light sauce, with some great spice and fenugreek flavor to it. The Curry with the lamb was also tomato-based with potatoes in the dish. The lamb had even more of a flavorful spice to it with cardamom and anise coming through. The lamb was well cooked and very tender.
As simple as it may be, the nan may have been the most perfect dish at the table. The bread itself was delicious and it was loaded with so much garlic and cilantro that you might think it was overpowering in looking at it, but it was a great balance of flavors. We could have easily gone through more nan, and will definitely try some of the other kinds next time.
There will be that next time. Some places I review, I don’t see again, but Rasa’s not one of those. My wife made sure to grab a take-out menu on the way out and I’ve already told a few people before this review had even been written, if you want great Indian food, there’s now another place around.