St. Henri is home to a plethora of restaurants serving up dishes as diverse as our city’s population. For the last year, Rasoi has fed us their funky take on Indian cuisine. We recently celebrated their first anniversary with a healthy helping of Indian tapas and a few drinks while a henna tattoo artist left her mark on the ladies. Here’s our take on the night’s festivities. To celebrate their first successful year in business, the restaurant was buzzing Bollywood style and at capacity with famished foodies, Montreal’s media and a peppering of local celebrities (laughing at/with Stuntman Sam with Sarah Bartok from The Beat was a great way to start the night!). Rasoi kicked the night off by passing around two hors d’oeuvres starting with crunchy pieces breaded white fish and tandoori-spiced paneer cheese. A short while later we made it to our tables where we were lucky enough to be seated sit next to the Montreal Food Divas (they always make us look good!). We were brought several appetizers and started with a deliciously spiced onion bhaji (one of my favorite servings of the night) and zesty spring rolls. Yes – spring rolls. Rasoi isn’t your Dādī’s Indian restaurant. Served along side the regular India fare you will find dishes that are American, French and Asian inspired. They call this fusion but when you’re not expecting spring rolls in an Indian restaurant it can lead to a bout of confusion. The next couple of appetizers were forgettable. After a lengthy wait we were served rather dull tuna, mango and coleslaw salad that was a little heavy on the coleslaw and the mango wasn’t nearly as ripe as it should have been. Next (and perhaps my biggest disappointment of the night) was the naan pizza. I love naan bread and I love pizza and this should have been a no-brainer. Though not as great as the sum of it’s parts, the naan bread was soggy but covered with a sweet white sauce and a healthy helping of fresh figs. I’d skip this one in the future unless they were able to come up with a way to keep the bread fresh.
The main courses that followed the naan fiasco thankfully set us all back on track. We were served a several curries at once with rice and buttery warm naan bread. Our favorite was the butter chicken, which was creamy and done just right. The second curry was filled with goat meat and since I am not a fan of goat, I only dipped a little bread in the curry it was served with. The spicy balance of the curry was perfect. The third curry was a chickpea vegetarian dish which was thick yet lighter than the others. I really enjoyed these three dishes. When I first walked into Rasoi I was impressed by the surroundings. The décor is colourful to say the least with shots of pink and blue fabric pillows and a large yellow wall with large holes that keep the restaurant from feeling claustrophobic. There are element’s that maintain that this is an Indian restaurant (such as a beautiful carving of the deity, Ganesha) but then they venture out, paint the ceiling pink, yellow and blue, like a colourful henna tattoo on the ceiling and let us know they are not playing by the rules. The owners are young and they are going to have fun and they prove that with all the elements of the restaurant. Our service was good, if a little unbalance, but at media events like these it isn’t fair to judge the wait staff. They were friendly, fast and courteous as they brought out endless trays of food from the kitchen. Overall I enjoyed my experience at Rasoi. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path approach to North American Indian food then this is a good choice. It’s also a good choice if you are new to Indian and you want to wade (rather than dive) in a choice of dishes inspired by other cultures as well. The food at Rasoi is familiar, the décor is inspired and fun and it’s a place I’d check out again for sure.
Photo credit: David Major-Lapierre