Navy Yard is home to the first RASA location. Navy Yard is lucky.
RASA is the first fast casual restaurant from Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman. Those names may be familiar since their fathers, Chefs K.N. Vinod and Surfy Rahman, are the men behind Indique, Bombay Bistro, and the late Indique Heights. Rahul and Sahil and young men that learned from their respective father’s fine dining establishments and are giving people quicker, but just as delicious options.
We raved about our samples of RASA at last spring’s New Kitchens on the Block. As long as they maintained their flavors, we knew we’d like the brick and mortar version. They maintained the flavors. It’s easily the most flavorful fast casual option in D.C.
D.C. may be the ideal city for fast casual. Downtown is packed with put-a-protein-vegetables-and-other-stuff-in-bowl options. The least flavorful, Eatsa, recently closed. The rest seem to be doing just fine. There are always lines at Roti and sweetgreen and Cava during lunch hours. Bowl-less places like Taylor Gourmet and &pizza are just as busy. There’s definitely a need for more fast casual and the lines during the first week of RASA’s opening prove that Navy Yard could use more fast casual.
RASA fills the hole Shophouse left when it closed earlier this year. Shophouse billed itself as a Southeast Asian Kitchen. Which meant kinda spicy, kinda fresh, lots of Sriracha (it was the only condiment on tables). RASA is Indian. Vinod and Rahman traversed around the country, taking flavors from each region. So when it comes to flavor profiles, RASA is most similar to Shophouse. It’s much better than Shophouse.
Order one of the six chef designed bowls. They spent time developing flavors and know what works with what. We will be returning for the Tikka Chance on Me (chicken tikka, roasted tomato sauce, basmati rice, sauteed spinach, pickled radish, kachumber, toasted cumin yogurt, mint cilantro chutney, lentil crisp). It’s the most familiar flavors, but it’s done better than most every other Indian restaurant and for $9, a entirely fine price for lunch in D.C.
We also loved the Home Cooking (turmeric ginger shrimp, tamarind chili sauce, south Indian rice noodles, tossed green beans, mango salsa, tamarind coconut powder, lentil crisp, tamarind ginger chutney, mango coconut yogurt) but realize shrimp, especially shrimp during lunch, may not be appealing. If you’re hesitant due to the protein, consider getting the south Indian rice noodles in another dish.
Our make your own bowl was the least successful thing we tried. It wasn’t bad, it just lacked any cohesion, which makes complete sense considering I have no experience cooking Indian food.
RASA opened a block away from Nats Park two months after the Nats season ended. It seemed to be a dumb decision. But like we said, lunch time during their first week was packed. There is a need for this place and they’ll have four more months to work out the kinks before it gets really, really busy. Their bowls will be good for pre-game meals and their $7.50 Masala Gin & Tonic is a fine drink option, especially considering its location. They also have fresh coconuts and what person doesn’t like drinking out of a coconut?
RASA, 1247 First St. SE, is open everyday from 11 a.m to 10 p.m.