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Splashy Rasa Joins Navy Yard’s Eclectic Dining Scene

The next-generation Indian restaurant opens December 6

Rasa’s soaring interior
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

Navy Yard is getting an injection of color and spice this week with the arrival of Rasa, a fresh take on Indian dining from rising hospitality duo Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman that invites customers to sip from coconuts while lounging in swinging chairs.

The bright and airy 2,300-square-foot eatery at the base of the F1rst building (1247 First Street SE) is scheduled to begin serving build-your-own rice bowls and kebab plates on Wednesday, December 6.

The founders, sons of hospitality vets and longtime business partners chef K.N. Vinod and Surfy Rahman (proprietors of Indique and Bombay Bistro), learned the restaurant ropes starting at a young age. As high school classmates, they dreamt of making Indian meals more accessible.

That welcoming mentality starts with the literal entrance, which features a towering turquoise door alongside bright neon signage to lure guests inside. A $10 price point for custom protein bowls also aims to stimulate foot traffic.

Inside, customers can feast on 360-degree views of every hue in the rainbow. The duo spent hours attaching multi-colored strings into a zigzag pattern across the ceiling.

An intense research and development trip to India last fall sparked inspiration for the space. Wooden lighted lanterns spotted at a music festival were replicated in the space.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

The restaurant’s name has multiple meanings. Translating “to taste,” it’s also the combination of the owners’ first names. And a yoga tie-in alludes to the nine rasas, or human emotions, that range from joy to fear.

Architects Hapstakdemetriou+ were tasked with the creative and colorful design. A bright blue textured custom front door was custom made and shipped from India.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

As an ode to that reference, nine huge panels painted by local artist Nandita Madan — who is also Rahman’s aunt and designer of Bombay Bistro — line the massive wall near the ordering line.

Boxed wooden shelving affixed on one wall is filled with trinkets, books from authors ranging from comedian Aziz Ansari to Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, plants, Indian spices, and maps.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

The menu’s split up into four categories. Five pre-set bowls come packed with chicken tikka, green jackfruit, or lamb kebabs, while a mix-and-match option allows diners to add in bases including tofu, cauliflower, and spiced beef.

A bowl filled with tomatoes, radishes, saucy meat and other items.
An ingredient-packed bowl at Rasa.

Featured sauces include tamarind chili, tomato garlic, coconut ginger, and peanut sesame; toppings range from mango salsa to dehydrated bitter melon. Sides and sweets include naan, mini samosas, kulfi pops, Indian yogurt, and masala chai cookies.

A Marra Forni oven behind the counter cooks fresh housemade naan breads, roasted vegetables, and kebabs, with more dishes in the works.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

Giving back is also integral in the restaurant’s theme. They partnered with Bangalore-based Akshaya Patra to contribute one nutritious meal to kids for each bowl sold at Rasa.

The restaurant is projected to operate from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Status: Scheduled to open at 11 a.m. Wednesday, December 6. 1247 First Street SE; website.

Along with a young coconut, drinks at Rasa include masala chai, mango lassi, local juices, a masala gin and tonic cocktail on draft, plus beer and wines.
Photo by Rey Lopez for Eater DC

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