Fish and chips at an Indian restaurant? Why, yes. And why not? The English influence on Indian food, dating to the colonial years, remains a presence. In fact, in many low-end curry houses in the UK, the usual question about an accompanying starch is “Rice or chips?”
So when we saw Calcutta fish and chips on the appetizer menu at Rasoi, we were surprised, but understood – and ordered it forthwith. Two good-sized fillets of mild white fish, seemingly tilapia, were covered by a thick, seasoned batter probably made with gram, or chickpea flour, along with a generous handful of fries sprinkled with parsley and spices, and a small cup of a tartar-sauce lookalike. Definitely not tartar, however, but a creamy sauce flavored with achar, the Indian pickle, pungent with tartness and its characteristic sharp odor. The batter was so crunchy and dense that it made for difficult knife-and-forking, but it was tasty, and so were the fries and sauce, although the latter, we know, may not be for everyone. The St. Louis-sized portion would do nicely for an entree.
It wasn't until the real entrees that we began to feel slightly uncomfortable. It's understandable that Rasoi has joined the pack of local Indian restaurants that now charge for raita, chutney, even the basic breads. Nor do they put out complimentary pappadums and chutney. Well, times are difficult for restaurants, and many now charge for items that used to be complimentary. After we ordered our lamb roghan josh and prawn angarey, the waiter, a pleasant guy who checked on us relatively frequently, asked if we wanted rice. We did; he asked, “What kind?” and pointed to a section of the menu for rice and repeated, “What kind?” The least expensive pulao was $8. We chose the mushroom pulao for $10. “Some sauce for that?” We agreed that a curry sauce would do. That turned out to be another $5. Raita, the yogurt-based sauce that we think works so well with spicy food, was an additional $2.50
The lamb roghan josh was excellent, one of the best we've tasted. The tender meat had no gristle or fat, the tomato sauce wonderfully spiced. The prawns came from the tandoori oven, and while they weren't the jumbo shrimp discussed on the menu, there were nine, not tough from overcooking and with the orangey-red coloring and lightly tangy seasoning typical of tandoori. The wild mushroom pulao was properly cooked and nicely mushroom-y, an asset to both the meat and the shrimp. The terra-cotta-colored curry sauce was nothing special and could easily have been skipped. Paratha, the thin flatbread, used whole-wheat flour and had been generously brushed with ghee. We had ordered roti, but the paratha was quite tasty, fresh and warm. We saw no point in interrupting the rhythm of the meal for a different type of bread.
Dessert includes the standards like rice pudding and ras malai, the doughnut-hole-like dish, but when we heard mango crème brulee, our ears perked up. Another hit; the creamy custard was strongly flavored with mango, cool on the bottom and warm on the top where the sugar had been added and the ramekin put under the heat for browning and crisping. A nice closing to a big-flavor meal.
Service was a little unusual, too; we're used to servers at local Indian restaurants being dispassionate to cool. Our waiter was smiling and pleasant, although as the dining room filled up, service became a little more ragged. The decor deserves special attention; the red walls and mosaic panels give a feeling of sophistication. And, yes, there's a lunch buffet.
Just about everything was quite good, and we admire the visuals of Rasoi, but we really are uncomfortable with the business involving the rice and the sauce. Not cool.
25 N. Euclid Ave.
Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good