Stepping Out: Rasoi
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
25 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO, 63108
Last week, I drove with two friends to the nearby Central West End for dinner. As the cold bit at our ears after we parked the car, our huddled group entered a wave of warmth named Rasoi. The air in this sanctuary-esque restaurant was filled with the alluring smells of Indian spices. We took a minute to observe the colorful room and the crowds of guests devouring mounds of curries before the hostess led our thawing party to a table in the back of the restaurant.
The menu at Rasoi offers a fairly inexpensive dinner (or brunch) with many vegetarian options. In fact, there are more vegetarian options than meat dishes! Appetizers range from $4-$12 and entrées from $12-$18, including a great sampling of courses for $25 (or $16 for vegetarians).
If you’ve been to House of India or Flavor of India (two other popular St. Louis Indian locales), you’ll find that Rasoi is very similar to both. Each restaurant offers the same staples of Indian cuisine, including malai kofta, lamb korma, vegetable korma and palak paneer. Despite their similarities, each restaurant has its upsides and downsides. Rasoi distinguishes itself consistently for its fresh ingredients and lamb korma; these reasons alone are enough to keep me a loyal customer.
On this particular evening, I decided on an order of vegetable samosas and lamb shank korma, served with complimentary white rice. After placing my order, I attempted to enter my friends’ conversation, but I was quickly carried into a dream-like state by the overwhelming scents permeating the air in the dining room. As I began to salivate, the waiter brought my order of samosas to the table, along with several different chutneys, a popular condiment for Indian cuisine. I picked up one of the two puffed pastries and cut it into two parts to release a cloud of flavorful steam. I crunched through several layers of satisfying crust, until I reached the delicately spiced potato mixture inside.
I could go on about how delicious the samosas were, but then I wouldn’t have space to explain the lamb shank korma. More than anything else, this dish motivates me to pick myself up and get back to Rasoi. Though it is one of the more expensive items on the menu, the flavors and textures of this dish easily justify its $18 price tag. Also, it can be split into a half-size portion for a reasonable $9, if you feel you can’t eat the whole dish. Although nothing on the menu has been a disappointment, after trying this dish, I could not imagine ordering anything else.
The waiter brought out the dish: an oversized plate precariously holding a large hunk of juicy lamb, just slipping off its bone, alongside a generous portion of basmati rice, and an assortment of grilled vegetables. My fork slid effortlessly into the lamb meat, and I lifted the first piece into my mouth. I realized, incredulously, that I had never tasted lamb flavored so agreeably. A couple of times during my meal, I distracted one of my friends and stole a fresh piece of her warm, fluffly naan (an Indian leavened bread), creating a miniature sandwich of naan, rice, grilled carrot and luscious tender warm lamb.
My only complaint about the evening would be the nonchalant attitude of the waiting staff. I got the general feeling that our presence at the restaurant was more of a burden than a pleasure. When we asked if the restaurant split checks, the waiter recommended that we sit at separate tables if we wanted separate bills. Nevertheless, the food (especially the lamb) nullified any desire for hospitality, and I would highly recommend Rasoi to any Indian food enthusiast.