Rasa’s fourth area outpost swings open on Saturday, July 30 (2905 District Avenue, Fairfax, Va.). Owners and Eater Young Guns (’18) Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman planted their first Rasa in Navy Yard in 2017, followed by a sophomore location in Mt. Vernon Triangle in 2020. Rasa entered the Northern Virginia market a year ago with a new National Landing outpost near the Crystal City Metro.
Fairfax opens with seven set bowls and familiar hits like chicken tikka-based Tikka Chance on Me and sweet potato tikki Aloo Need Is Love, along with an array of bases, sauces, proteins, and veggies to build customized creations. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily for pickup, delivery, and dine-in service.
To cater to a growing customer base of “teeny super fans,” Rahman says family-friendly Fairfax felt like the right place to roll out Rasa’s first-ever kid’s menu.
“We have kids as young as two enjoying the food. So many parents tell us Rasa is the only food their young toddlers will eat,” he says.
Little ones can choose from vermicelli rice noodles with tomato garlic sauce (with the option to add chicken tikka or mixed veggies); an adorable build-your-own option; and basmati rice and tikka bowl with toasted cumin yogurt and juice.
Adults can enjoy canned wine, bottled Taj Mahal and domestic beers, and cocktails like a masala gin and tonic, cardamom mint julep, spiked lassi, a Mumbai mule made with Indian rum, tamarind margarita, and crowd-pleasing spiked coconuts. Rasa’s popular vegan oat milk soft serve in flavors like masala chai also makes its way to suburbia.
Merrifield’s dining-dense Mosaic District houses options for Italian (Alta Strada, Pupatella), Cuban (Colada Shop), Mexican (Urbano 116), Greek (Our Mom Eugenia), and Japanese barbecue (Gyu Shige), but Rasa fills an Indian food void in the airy, decade-old complex nestled between the city of Fairfax and Falls Church.
“Fairfax is such a diverse, open-minded and exciting place right now. This is a launch pad for many suburban [locations] to come,” says Rahman.
Named by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the country’s most exciting “Breakout Brands” in 2022, Rasa is on a fast expansion track thanks to a recent financing round. The founders are scouring more sites across Virginia and in Maryland, potentially Montgomery Country, where they’re from.
The founders learned the restaurant ropes at a young age; their dads are hospitality vets and longtime business partners chef K.N. Vinod and Surfy Rahman (Indique and Bombay Bistro). As high school classmates, they dreamt of making Indian meals more accessible. The Fairfax kid’s menu aims to introduce more youngsters to the cuisine and could show up at other sites.
The founders turn to their artistic family members to put together the vibrant look at each. Bright and textured wooden doors, a beacon at every Rasa, are hand-carved by Rahman’s aunt in India and shipped to the states. The 1,800-square-foot Fairfax location sports two entrances, one out front and another inside the mall lobby, framed with huge hot pink doors.
“She literally makes them in her basement in New Delhi. We FaceTime to make sure the color is right,” says Rahman.
Another aunt who’s an interior designer created colorful panels to represent the nine rasas (human expressions) upon entry. Boxed shelves perched up high are filled with cookbooks and whimsical antiques collected from Indian markets.
“It’s exciting to loudly and proudly highlight our culture,” he says.