Opening a restaurant during a pandemic has been a struggle, of course, but RASA owners Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod acknowledge that it has still been easier than their first go at the process.
The partners officially lift the garage door on a second location of their lauded counter for Indian bowls, which has become a standout in fast-casual-heavy Navy Yard, this weekend in Mt. Vernon Triangle. As opposed to 2017, when Vinod says he dragged his dad into the kitchen and worked until 4 a.m. to prep items like tamarind chili sauce and mint chutney, the pair of Eater Young Guns (’18) have implemented a smoother process.
“We’ve come a long way from there,” says Vinod, who just turned 30. “It’s been such a cool experience to see where we were to where we are today.”
Today, the second RASA (485 K Street NW) handed out free meals to build some good will in the neighborhood and solicit $10 donations for D.C. Central Kitchen. The menu is almost entirely the same — with customizable bowls and prearranged options ($10.45 to $12.50) like a chicken tikka-based Tikka Chance on Me or sweet potato tikki Aloo Need Is Love — but there are a couple new small additions.
Two options for vegan oat milk soft serve, a masala chai flavor and a mango lassi flavor, are now available alongside sides and sweets like mini samosas and chai chocolate chip cookies. There are two new cocktails on draft: a Mumbai mule with RASA’s ginger syrup, Indian rum, and club soda, and a mint julep with a hint of cardamom. Customers can now add poached eggs or avocado to their bowls for a surplus charge.
The design of the restaurant looks much the same as Navy Yard, too, but a tight 1,400 square feet meant the partners couldn’t install a pizza oven to bake naan, which comes out of a combi oven at the second RASA.
Rahman, 29, describes the opening process as “insane,” noting that RASA was about a week from opening in Mt. Vernon Triangle when D.C. enacted a dine-in ban to halt the spread of COVID-19. The stress doesn’t show while he smiles wide on a Zoom call, showing off colorful artwork his aunt his installed to represent the nine rasas (human expressions) or the new location’s patio seats out front.
The partners’ philanthropic efforts helped them prepare the company to double in size. RASA partnered with World Central Kitchen to make over 10,000 meals. With a big assist from investor Vernon Davis and developer JBG Smith, their “Feed the District” campaign raised more than $72,000 to supply free meals to children, frontline medical workers, and rideshare drivers.
Starting Saturday, August 1, RASA in Mt. Vernon Triangle will open for takeout and outdoor seating at 11 a.m. every day, with a 9 p.m. close Sunday through Thursday and a 10 p.m. close on Friday and Saturday. Online ordering for takeout from the Mt. Vernon Triangle location will be available starting Monday, August 3, with delivery coming on a few weeks later.