Wednesday, March 19, 2014


A restaurant is not just a place to go eat. A good restaurant is a moment in time that captures a mood. A good restaurant ideally shows you a different way of life through a meal. For me a good restaurant is the cute cusp between imagination and reality.

When we go out to eat or lounge, we are not necessarily looking for just food and drink. We’re looking for memories, for thrill, for delightful discoveries and for latent learning. We’re looking for a getaway from the monotony of our homes, the synchronicity of clocks that rule our lives. We’re looking for anonymity and abandon, for reverie and rebellion in equal measure. 

There are times when the poshest of restaurants in a five star hotel leave you wanting more. At others, a hole-in-the-wall establishment can meet all that you were looking for on that particular day.
Outside the Raasta alley

So I set out one day recently to review yet another restaurant. Now that the initial enthusiasm of reviewing restaurants is waning, I was guilty of waking up that day and going, “Oh no, another restaurant!” We creative types get bored easily, you know. My lucky colour that day was yellow and I wore a summery yellow T shirt with a floral skirt with flowers in red, yellow and green to upgrade my enthusiasm a bit. The weather was on the cusp of a reluctant winter waving goodbye and a cheerful spring peeping in from the windows. So I threw on my parrot green crochet, netty shrug looking more florescent than I’ve ever looked in recent times.

I reached Hauz Khas village surprisingly hassle-free that day, simply following the Google Maps navigation lady on my phone, whom I call Billo Rani. Half way through I wondered if I was too casually dressed? I confess I had not read the brief properly and while every restaurant claims to be multi cuisine these days, I was just bored to look through the menu.Taking a cue from the name Raasta, I assumed it would be predominantly Indian with some Chinese and Lebanese thrown in.  So what if it were a very stuffy, very brocaded, very sherwaniied place in a typical Indian 'way' or Raasta? I beg your pardon for the oversight rightaway. 

We located Raasta in 5 min as it is very easily accessible from the main Hauz Khas village parking area. As we opened the discreet looking wooden door of Raasta on the first floor, it was as if we had entered Jamaica. Oh My Goodness! But the whole damn place is an ode to Bob Marley! Imagine my utter delight. I have maintained -since the early 1990s- that reggae is the most joyous sound in the world. It can transport me to a different heaven altogether. I mean is there a bigger musical delight than ‘Buffalo Soldier’ on loop?! 

The huge wooden bar in Jameson Lounge, Raasta

The restaurant is designed in green, yellow and red(note the colours mentioned earlier, ahem) which are the typical colours of the Rastafarian movement of a Caribbean sect, juxtaposed with wood, paintings of Bob Marley, wide screen TVs, Marley memorabilia, Jamaican and Caribbean motifs all around and almost no artificial lighting during the day. It was like entering a dark, mysterious den of discovery and delights. 

Big spacious green and wicker lounging sofas, low tables, a huge wooden bar and a huge open balcony called the Jameson Lounge, overlooking green kikar trees with eye-catching pillars and panels done in yellow, green and red. Can’t remember when was I last so happy to see so much colour. 

Time just stood still. I felt I was sitting on some faraway, tropical beach, with reggae music soothing my soul. I had to literally stop myself from dancing as the crowd was mostly young college students who looked roughly half my age! 

Marley memorabilia

Relaxed lounge seating

Raasta Special

We started with the Raasta Special Mocktail, a mix of strawberry, cranberry juice and fizz. Very refreshing and tropical in taste, and sets the mood for some calypso carousing.

Apache Salad
Crispy Caribbean Chicken Strips

Raasta offers a snack menu that encourages small nibbles, light bites and a hearty meal as well. For starters we tried the Caribbean Chicken Strips, 
which are tender chicken strips marinated with Caribbean dry rubs, crumbed, fried and served with a fiery Harissa sauce. The Apache Salad I ordered features lightly grilled sea 
bass on a pleasant salad of lettuce, red and yellow peppers, olives and cucumber. Can be a great one dish meal for dieters. 

Lamb Empanada
Pomegranate Stuffes Three Cheese Bites

While Raasta has improvised the menu to cater to a wide range of palates, incorporating local tastes, I stuck to the original classics served here which is Caribbean and African food. 

But the selection offers cuisine from all across the world and is a melange of Oriental, Middle Eastern, Indian and Continental cuisine.

For vegetarians ‘Pomegranate Stuffed Three Cheese Bites’ as a starter are simply exquisite. 

Seafood Stew
Caribbean Chicken Curry

For main course we had Seafood Stew and Caribbean Chicken Curry. Both were served with fragrant garlic rice and absolute delights in terms of taste, flavours and lightness. The Seafood Stew was in a tomato based sauce, piquant and not oily at all. 

The Caribbean Chicken Curry has tiny pieces of perfectly cooked chicken in a fragrant and aromatic chicken mince with interesting interludes of Caribbean jerk spices. 

The Prawn & Chicken Jambalaya is also a speciality here, although to cater to the average Delhi youngster, they have enough pasta, pizza and kebabs too.

Creme Caramel with a View
The atmosphere is unpretentious and relaxed and the food hits the right notes with new tastes and sensations, transcending old, predictable barriers. Much 
like the theme of the place.

Rastafarian culture after all, is a way of life dedicated to an ideology that believes in the rejection of materialism and embracing greater spiritual values. The Raasta movement which brings alive a more free-spirited approach to life found its main champion in Jamaican born singer-Bob Marley whose soulful lyrics made Rastafarian culture popular in mainstream music and culture. One of reggae’s earliest proponents, his songs live on long after the legend has passed on. Raasta-the lounge pays tribute to this great legend, with a primarily Reggae influence on music. 

Bob Marley is said to have claimed that the word reggae came from a Spanish term for "the king's music". The music became synonymous with the songs of revolution and independence sung by Jamaican singers and then popularised in the mainstream by Bob Marley and others. Dubstep's early roots are in the more experimental releases of UK garage producers, seeking to incorporate elements of drum and bass into the two step garage sound. 

I am told the mood in the evenings is very different and clubby and the spacious place is packed on most weekends. 

These are the special nights at Raasta: 

1. Raasta Monday- Reggae Night 
2. Raasta Tuesday- Karaoke Night 
3. Raasta Wednesday- Retro Night 
4. Raasta Thursday- Simmer Down Session with Reggae Rajah's 
5. Raasta Friday- Dub Night 
6. Raasta Saturday- Killwish with Reggaetoon dancehall + Dub 
7. Raasta Sunday- Ladies Night At Raasta

They also call live bands often to perform. It's just the right place to enjoy these musical melodies and discover new and fresh musical talent with some great food and drinks.

To me Raasta is yet another triumph of stand-alone restaurants/lounges in Delhi that have pushed the boundaries, pushed the envelope of entertainment in 5 star domains and given refreshing, revolutionary recreational spaces. It is anti-establishment in a delicious, eclectic manner. Symbolically as I step out, playing on the system is a song that goes “Mr. President, retire, retire, retire.”

I know for sure, the day I am feeling down and out and a bit listless, and when the world seems without rhythm or melody, I will put on my bright yellow T-shirt and torn denims and hit ‘Raasta’! I’ll be a Rastafarian again!

Raasta Caribbean Lounge 
Number of covers: 88 
Average meal for two: Rs 1500 
Reservations only till 9 
Contact No: 011-40623028 
Address: 30, First Floor, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi- 110016

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