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A taste of plenty

sHONALI MUTHALAlY
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EATING OUT The Rasaa has been brave enough to play around with the traditional multi-cuisine format resulting in food that is flavourful and fun

VARIED FLAVOURS At The Rasaa Photo: R. Ravindran
VARIED FLAVOURS At The Rasaa Photo: R. Ravindran

T he weather's annoyingly indecisive this month. Which makes menu decisions tough. Brooding clouds and rain conjure up cravings for steaming soup served with buttery hunks of bread. Or if you're in a mood for something a little less Jane Austen, sizzling vadais teamed with dollops of coconut chutney. When it's sunny outside, then creamy thayir saadam seems more appropriate, teamed with oversized golden appalams and mango pickle.

Between these episodes of beating rain and blinding sunshine, perhaps multi-cuisine menus are the best choice. They're certainly ideal for the chaotic extended-family outing: A time when nobody can agree on what they feel like eating for dinner and the youngest invariably wants something utterly random, like spaghetti with naan.

As a rule, multi-cuisine restaurants tend to be fairly average in a ‘let's keep everyone reasonably happy' sort of way. We're all too familiar with these menus, as blithely immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar. They'll invariably feature a dash of Continental food, replete with white sauce and margarine. Then comes the Chinese section, with a desi accent and tomato sauce. Finally the usual suspects from North and South India, from baturas to dosas.

Yet, to be fair, in India, for a mid-level restaurant to survive it needs to be flexible. Especially when it's vegetarian, given the fact that it's already catering to a niche — as big as that niche may be. Hence Sri Krishna Sweets' decision to replace their Kongunadu vegetarian restaurant with the multi-cuisine The Rasaa is hardly surprising. Fortunately, they've been brave enough to play around with the traditional multi-cuisine format, adding twists to even the stodgiest items on the menu. So, even though The Rasaa has the obligatory mushroom Manchurian and Mexican nachos, a meal here is far from conventional. Largely because their consultant Chef, Jacob Sahaya Aruni has built a reputation for persistently doing that rock star thing — breaking rules, and generally breaking them well. Our meal, for instance, begins with two styles of vadais, one stuffed with banana flower, the other with tulsi. They're crusty outside, peppered with roasted whole spices including fennel and dry coriander seeds, which contribute bursts of flavour. The paneer kebab is firm yet creamy thanks to a potent marinade featuring crushed grapes. There are baby corn fritters in a spicy batter and tandoor potatoes marinated in mustard. The gobi tikka, however, is so soggy I half expect it to grab some chiffon and to audition for a Bollywood dance sequence. The Mexican nachos are pretty, but the crusts are soft and listless.

Fresh, light and easy

We try Vetrilai Poondu Saatham flavoured with fresh betel leaves and garlic. It's a little disconcerting, since betel nut is such an unexpected taste mid-meal, but it works surprisingly well. There's a fragrant dum biriyani and richly spiced kothu paratha. We also eat flaky parathas with the Rasaa cashew masala, velvety with ground cashewnuts. The food is deftly cooked with minimal oil, so everything's fresh, light and easy to digest. The kitchen also tries to incorporate healing herbs and spices in most dishes. Ayurvedic salt, for instance, is a constant. Personally, it feels good to get through a restaurant review meal without feeling like a python that swallowed a cow.

We end with a mysterious dessert called ‘out of this world' and the classic Elaneer payasam. Both are sweeter than a Taylor Swift tune, practically making our teeth ache. If you can get the kitchen to cut down the sugar, they're lusciously refreshing. Especially if you consider the fact that the first dessert is as intricate as a Tahul Tahiliani outfit, constructed with wobbly sago cooked in black jaggery, which is topped with khoa and a sprinkle of fried vermicelli. All this is then set in a pool of cotton seed milk. Not your average multi-cuisine dessert. Which is appropriate. Because The Rasaa's not your average multi-cuisine restaurant.

The Rasaa is behind Sri Krishna Sweets, Venkatanarayana Road, T. Nagar. A meal for two should cost approximately Rs. 400.

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