Rasa may be old news to you but it was new to us. A friend had mentioned how good the food was earlier, adding that they had a high from the dishes when they left the restaurant. Whether it was the incense or some curious spices in the food, (or perhaps our friend’s riveting imagination), we decided the check this place out on the popular Church Street in Stoke Newington. No we didn’t get high but the food was quite nice!
Rasa can’t be classified as a chain but they they have a few branches, 3 of which are all in Stoke Newington. One is an express takeaway, the other is called Travancore, which offers meat dishes, but the most well-known one is the old vegetarian eatery. That is the one we tried. According to their website and the many, many stickers plastered on their window, they have won several best vegetarian restaurant awards and recommendations. We didn’t think that the food was quite up there to be ‘the best’ but it was certainly delicious. The menu is very extensive and would require quite a few visits to try a good selection of the dishes, luckily the portion sizes are quite small and designed to be ordered as a selection and shared.
As a starter, we were served a basket of pre-meal snacks which alongside traditional papadoms, offered banana chips, a flower shaped snack made of rice flour and coconut and crunchy sticks made from roasted rice flour, black sesame seeds and cumin seeds. It was a small but nice touch to an otherwise traditional starter that told us to expect things to be done differently here. The accompanying pickles and chutneys were great and full of flavor, the selection was great coming with about 8 different chutneys and dips.
As a main course we ordered Rasa Kayi, a spicy curry made of beans, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes simmered in a sauce of garlic, ginger and fennel. It was absolutely brilliant, it had a very unique and complex flavor that told you the chefs are obviously making their own spice blends from scratch and staying away from the pre mixed spices that unfortunately a lot of indian restaurants use. As a side, we had black eye beans stir fried together with onions, coconut, mustard seeds, dry chillies and curry leaves, which served as a nice side to the curry and again was a little different from the usual. We also had tomato rice, which had some nice flavours in it but was a little disappointing. The star if the show though was the paratha, which is wheat dough layered and curled into a coil mat shape, then cooked on the griddle. As simple as it sounds, it was one of the tasties doughs we had ever put in our mouths. As a usual meat eater I can sometimes find vegetarian food to be lacking if its not put together well but in this case I was very happy not to be eating meat as the flavours were all there and just as interesting as any meat based currys I have had.
Although it was packed when we were there, we were seated in 15 minutes and the service was fast and very friendly, the whole place had a very nice casual feel about it. We didn’t have any problems and the staff was lovely even when they seemed extremely busy. Hats off to that!
Rasa is a tiny little place with some Indian ornaments laid out as part of the décor. There are rugs on the bright pink coloured walls, elephant trinkets, incense burning... it is quintessentially Indian in that respect . It may not be the best place for a date since it can quite loud and the tables are super close to each other but at the same time could be a nice place if you were after something more casual. Everybody in the restaurant seemed to be having a good time and enjoying the food and that reflects on the overall feel of the restaurant here.
We were two people and quite full after a starter, a curry, two side dishes and a large bottle of beer. We paid somewhat 12 Pounds per head for that, which is very reasonable weighing in the tastiness of the food and the size of the dishes.
Overall, it is fair to say that some of the dishes here were brilliant whereas some were less impressive while still being fairly good. However, considering value for money, this tiny little place is certainly a winner and we will be back again to try some more of their delicious dishes.
Food – 7.5
Service - 8
Ambiance - 6
Price - Low
Find out more about Rasa on their website.