Rasa TorontoI’ve read that Rasa translates to “essence” in Sanskrit. Other sources claim the name is derived from the Latin phrase tabula rasa, which means “blank slate.”

I’m inclined to believe both – one, because some of the meals were served on a slate, and the other because the eclectic menu reflects the essence of a truly, diverse city like Toronto.

That and I’ll pretty much believe anything you tell me.

Having only heard great things about this Food Dudes venture that opened last summer, I’ve been wanting to try Rasa for a while. So when the offer of a $35 Set Menu was suggested, it made a manic, back-to-work Monday just a lot more hopeful.

Rasa TorontoRasa’s enviable location, at the corner of Harbord and Robert Street, allows for a great patio that wraps around the side of the restaurant.

The decor is dark, rugged and very masculine, and yet, has the feel of a modern speakeasy. I find myself taking in the rusty, metal pipes that make for abstract wall art and unique light fixtures.

There’s a sultry musical duo belting out some soulful jazz, and I intrinsically find myself ordering a bourbon.

I don’t even drink bourbon. But it goes down smooth.

Rasa TorontoThe $35 Set Menu looks colourfully inviting, and offers a combination of 4 items and a “Rasa Snack” … which I presume could be anything that Chef created depending on what day/night/week you were dining.

Our snack was a cornbread muffin with honey butter, lemon and jalapeños. Light, flaky and packed with a punch, it was a promising start to the meal.

This was followed by a crispy chickpeas salad – a very, very enjoyable dish. The crunch and smokiness of the chickpeas reminded me of Indian street food called channa, which are roasted peas usually eaten as a snack.

The beauty of having two other dining partners is that you get to try a little of everything, which is exactly what we did for our tapas selection … but went separate ways with our mains.

Rasa Toronto
A crunchy salad with vegetables, quinoa, macedonian feta, and crispy chickpeas

Rasa Toronto
From top: Summer vegetables with smoke sunchokes and babaganoush; Shrimp po boys; and chicken wings

Rasa Toronto
Chopped steak and beef cheek burger with cheddar, gochujang sauce and squash kimchi

The service was quick and very friendly, and our handsome server made us feel like we were the most important table there … apart from the gaggle of giggling girls at the table across, who seemed to enjoy the attention as much as we did.

Rasa Toronto
See the kitchen at work while seated at the Chef’s Table.

While the menu may appear fairly standard at first, the food has a heavy international influence, and you are bound to be taken on a light, culinary adventure.

Our meals ended with some Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge (the “Sweet Surprise” on the set menu), and handsome server guy talked us into ordering a rather decadent dessert that came topped with roasted marshmallows, waffles, and condensed milk ice cream.

Oh Rasa, you had me at ‘condensed milk’.


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