Address 55 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 OAR
Phone 020 7249 0344
Web site http://www.rasarestaurants.com
Main dish price range £4-6
Rating 5 Stars. The best restaurant in its genre in London.
Recommended dishes Bagur Baingan, Kovakka Olathiathu
Tonight the new stewardess of your ethnic eating blog decided to go on a little adventure: I hopped on the 73 bus and headed to Stoke Newington to try out Rasa, a tiny, pink-walled restaurant that specializes in food from the South Indian state of Kerala. Rasa is a vegetarian-only mini-chain that in recent years has grown from a single restaurant in Stoke Newington to a seven-location mini-empire, including locations as far out as Brighton and Newcastle. Being first timers, my husband and I decided to start with the original location, a cozy spot with magenta and orange silks hanging from the walls and smells of turmeric and mustard seed wafting out from the kitchen.
|Can you beat these pickles?|
To start off, we ordered a Nair Dosa, which is a rice and black gram flour pancake filled with a combination of potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onion and ginger. The dosa itself was the perfect consistency, and since we asked for our food spicy, had the ideal amount of kick that lingered on the tongue. The sambar that came with it was hardly an afterthought either-- once we'd finished polishing off our dosas, my husband and I kept drizzling it over the our coconut rice, savoring the unique combination of spices.
Another starter, the handmade pickle and chutney platter was also a real star. Unlike a lot of potted chutneys available in many restaurants-- full of so much sugar, some of the nuance is lost-- each one of these six-mini dishes was excellently crafted to serve as the perfect, pre-meal palette cleanser. Of particular was the lemon pickle-- cured lemons, seeded with a hint of sweet-- and also a mango chutney that balanced thinly sliced mangoes with a dusting of spice. The whole thing was a riot of color and taste combinations that we loved dipping into to explore.
|Our feast in its full glory.|
|Tindori: cucumbers, baby ones|
The rest of our meal had some notable additions that showed the real care that goes into everything on offer at Rasa. A side dish we had, the Kovakka Olathiathu, consisted of a vegetable we'd never seen, Tindori-- or tiny baby cucumbers-- mixed memorably with dry roasted cashews, coconuts, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. The coconut rice was also good, and comes already blended with a bit of black daaal, a nice touch.
All in all, we were wowed by the food at Rasa and can't wait to return. (Eating our leftovers cold the next day was surprisingly satisfying too.) The Website of the Rasa empire-- which is also pepto-bismo hued, charmingly -- displays a prominent, unattributed quote: "Once there was a time when the whole world was enamored with the fragrance of Kerala." After one visit to this gem, I believe it.