A head-to-toe makeover has transformed the former Malabar Hill into a destination worthy of date night. The Elmsford spot was closed for more than a year so the overhaul could be completed and has achieved a sleek and modern feel that’s unlike most Indian restaurants. At the entrance, birdcage chandeliers hang from the lofty ceiling, while round copper lights swing above striated wooden tables. Gray placemats, Mason-jar drinking glasses, and graphic wallpaper complete the look.
Raasa’s interior is sleek, atypical of most Indian restaurants.
Yet, Raasa Indian Cuisine is more than just a pretty face. On its extensive menu, overseen by Chef Amar Singh, you’ll find dishes from Punjab, Kerala, and Kolkata. The menu is broken down into sections: tandoor, chicken, lamb, fish, shrimp, vegan, vegetarian, biryani, and British Goan curry. Vegetarian and vegan options are particularly abundant, making Raasa an apt choice for diners avoiding meat.
Of the starters, be sure to try the keema samosas (spiced minced lamb and peas) and potato and cauliflower samosas—among the best I’ve ever tasted. The pastry is flaky and flavorful, and the fillings are expertly seasoned. For children and those who prefer milder fare, order the tender murgh Afghani kabab (skewered chicken tenders marinated in a chickpea flour batter). While a tandoor-cooked pumpkin appetizer with paprika marinade and onion seeds is novel, it’s also a bit bland. Skip the watery mulligatawny soup (with lentil and coconut), my least favorite dish on the menu.
As for the entrées, the sauces are exemplary. Don’t miss the konju pappas (shrimp with coconut cream and garam masala, a spice mixture), mattar paneer (peas with cheese), and chicken tikka masala, which have creamy and rich sauces. (Skip the lamb madras—the meat can be on the chewy side.) Meanwhile, the tomato-based aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) and Nadan fish curry sauces are complex and saturated with flavor.
Baghara baingan—eggplant served in a sesame, peanut, and tamarind sauce—is just one of Raasa’s many vegetarian and vegan offerings.
The sauces are so compelling, you’ll likely wish you’d ordered more bread for dipping. But then again, you might wish for more bread anyway. After all, the fluffy and tender naan, warm from the oven, is textbook perfect. Try the varieties stuffed with paneer (cheese) and with paneer, dried fruits, and nuts. (Avoid the paratha, which is limp and greasy.)
If you’d rather go with a rice-based entrée, Raasa offers what it calls the Famous Mughlai Dum Biryani, with a choice of meat or vegetables. Accompanied by raita (yogurt-cucumber sauce), the chicken version could benefit from more vegetables, nuts, and dried fruits for color, flavor, and texture.
Skewered chicken and naan bread cooks in a tandoor oven.
To end your meal, order more naan with paneer and dried fruit (with mango chutney for dipping), or sip an iced mango lassi (smoothie). The latter expertly balances creamy yogurt with slightly tangy mango. If rasmalai is available when you’re there, be sure to try it. Reminiscent of Mexican tres leches cake, the dessert stars soft cheese curds in a sweet milky sauce scented with rosewater and cardamom.
The dessert menu is limited. One evening, Raasa offered only gulab jamun (small donuts in syrup), which were gummy in texture. Meanwhile, the kheer (rice pudding) lacks flavor and sweetness, registering as almost savory. Lassi sharabi, one of several cocktail options, is intriguing, but cloying. Not to worry: You can always go for beer or wine.
Regardless of what you order, you’ll surely experience solicitous service. Our water glasses were refilled 15 times during each of our two visits. When my son polished off a basket of pappadum (crunchy lentil-based crackers), we were immediately brought another. But don’t expect detailed dish recommendations, since the staff—though gentle and accommodating—is not overly polished. You might also encounter a slightly long lull between appetizers and entrées. Consider visiting for the economical lunch (Monday and Friday, $12) and brunch buffets (Saturday and Sunday, $15).
All in all, Raasa offers solid Indian cuisine in a sophisticated setting. We look forward to returning to sample more dishes on the extensive menu and reorder favorites—especially those samosas and breads.
Raasa Indian Cuisine
145 E Main St
(914) 347-7890; raasany.com