Photo by REY LOPEZ
From a press release:
“Highly anticipated ‘Fine Fast Casual’ Indian restaurant RASA (1247 First Street, SE) from the dynamic next generation DC-based hospitality duo Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman is scheduled to open on Wednesday, December 6th for lunch and dinner service. RASA will be open daily from 11:00am to 10:00pm.
Photo by REY LOPEZ
Check out the full RASA Final Menu December 2017 (PDF)
Located in the ground floor of the F1RST Residences within the vibrant Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, RASA has been a culinary project in the making since co-founders Rahul and Sahil were attending high school in Montgomery County. The sons of celebrated hospitality veterans and longtime business partners Chef K.N. Vinod and Surfy Rahman of Indique and Bombay Bistro, Rahul and Sahil grew up in their family’s vibrant restaurants, and were quite literally born into the hospitality industry. Growing up in restaurants, they quickly realized that many people had preconceived notions about Indian cuisine, and at a young age began dreaming about ways to make the meals they grew up loving more accessible to a larger audience of diners.
The name ‘RASA’ is not only a combination of the two co-founders names – Rahul and Sahil – but ‘rasa’ in Sanskrit also translates to “essence of enjoyment” in English.
To prepare for RASA’s debut in the District, the dynamic duo travelled to India last fall to reconnect with their roots and spent several weeks on an intense research and development trip. The trip proved to be an incredible learning experience for them, and offered a remarkable opportunity to delve deeper into the extremely diverse regional cuisines and cultures across India. In addition to visiting almost a dozen cities, Sahil and Rahul also made the journey to the headquarters of the internationally renowned organization, Akshaya Patra, located in Bangalore. Akshaya Patra provides high-quality, nutritious, regionally sensitive, and free meals to school children in India, thereby incentivizing school attendance, and supporting childhood nutrition. RASA has partnered with Akshaya Patra to support childhood health and education by contributing one nutritious meal to school children for each bowl sold at RASA.
The menu at RASA is broken down into four main categories including ‘We Got You’, ‘You Got This’, ‘Sides + Sweets’, and ‘Drinks’. The ‘We Got You’ section is comprised of signature suggestions for diners crafted by the team for swift and easy ordering. The ‘We Got You’ section consists of 5 set bowls, including the ‘Tikka Chance on Me’, ‘Om My Goodness’ and ‘Open Sesame’, which include chicken tikka, green jackfruit, and lamb kebabs respectively, as well as a Veggie Thali option.
The ‘You Got This’ section invites guests to build their own bowl. Guests will begin the selection process with “Build You Base” where they can choose between greens or grains, including South Indian Rice Noodles, Basmati Rice, and Supergreens, before moving on to “Pick a Main”. Here seven options are available, perfect for herbivores and carnivores alike, with a range of options including a variety for vegans including tofu + cauliflower, as well as non-vegan options such as spiced beef. From there, diners can “Get Saucy” by selecting a sauce from the four options of Tamarind Chili, Tomato Garlic, Coconut Ginger, or Peanut Sesame, and then move on to “Add Veggies.” The hot veggie sides include Charred Eggplant, Tossed Green Beans, Sauteed Spinach, or Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Once diners add their veggies they are then able to select their Toppings, where they can add an unlimited number of unique and flavorful selections such as Mango Salsa, Dehydrated Bitter Melon, and Toasted Coconut Powder. To complete the fast casual experience, a selection of both chutneys and dressings are also available, including Mint Cilantro, Mango Coconut Yogurt, Tamarind Ginger, and Coriander Chili, just to highlight a few.
After guests have completed their bowl, they are then invited to enjoy a selection of ‘Sides + Sweets’. The section features a wide variety of sweet and savory side dishes and desserts including items such as Naan, Garlic Naan, Mini Samosas, Kulfi Pops, Indian Yogurt, and Masala Chai Cookies, just to name a few. The final section of the menu ‘Drinks’ offers something for everyone – from RASA’s signature Masala Chai, Mango Lassi, Housemade Juice, a selection of juices from Misfit Juicery, Runningbyrd Tea, Wild Kombucha, Fresh Young Coconut, a Masala Gin + Tonic cocktail available on draft, as well as a selection of beers, and wines.
Featuring 2,300 square feet, RASA is nestled amongst a powerful line-up of other notable fast casual concepts, and is proud to serve as the first and only local outpost of the restaurant and the originality can be seen immediately from the outside looking in beginning with the commanding bright blue textured custom front door Rahul and Sahil had custom made for them in India. Celebrated architects Michael Mason and Cristian Rosa from HapstakDemetriou+ were tapped to handle RASA’s creative and colorful design, and seamlessy executed on the duos vision of bringing together the old world and the new. As guests make their way through the front entrance into the main dining room, additional custom elements reflecting RASA’s vibrant colors – featuring deep shades of fuchsia, pops of both light and rich deep hues of blue, citrusy orange, and turquoise – can be seen throughout the airy space including colorful artwork dotting the walls created exclusively for the restaurant by local artist, Nandita Madan, who happens to be Sahil’s aunt. Looking up, guests will discover multiple streams of RASA-colored strings perfectly angled in zigzag patterns strewn across the ceiling. To add to the playful and colorful ambiance, Rahul and Sahil hung three large swinging chairs in the dining room of which are located in the front window nook of the restaurant inviting guests to relax and linger. And further blending RASA’s eclectic design but with a creative culinary function, diners will notice a large black Marra Forni oven located directly behind the counter. Made in Maryland, this 1000 degree brick oven will be used by the team as a tandoor cooking fresh housemade naan breads, roasted vegetables, kebabs, and the team already has additional creative dishes in the works of which will incorporate the use of the oven.
“Bringing RASA to life is the realization of a childhood dream and an amazing opportunity for us to share our culture and cuisine with our community and city”, said RASA co-founder Sahil Rahman. “Since we started, our vision has been to make Indian cuisine accessible, and we’re excited to open diners minds to new worlds offering unique, high-quality, and chef-driven meals at a $10 price point”, said RASA co-founder Rahul Vinod.
“We want to demystify Indian cuisine, and what others think of it”, said Chef K.N. Vinod, who was tapped by the duo to assist with RASA’s culinary creativity. “We didn’t realize that our sons had such a huge interest in a culinary profession but then we witnessed all of their hard work and dedication, their drive, and so they not only earned our approval, but we have invested in them and RASA and are thrilled to see this dream come to life for them”, said Surfy Rahman. “There are so many facets to Indian cuisine – north, east, south, west – that Americans have not seen or experienced yet, and through RASA’s vision, our sons are looking to continue the culinary legacy in our family by sharing as much of that with diners as possible – in a way as culinary ambassadors.”
RASA will be open for lunch and dinner from 11:00AM to 10:00PM 7 days a week beginning on Wednesday, December 6th, with plans to announce details on menu additions, specials, community collaborations, and upcoming events.”