Sunday, Jul 22, 2018
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Restaurant Reviews

PEACH WEEKENDER | BILL OF FARE

Rasa gets big ideas into small plates

  • Rasa-Bill-of-FareBeet-stained-Taglietelle

    Beet-stained Taglietelle with shrimp ($19).

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  • Rasa-Bill-of-Fare

    Duck wings ($14).

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  • Rasa-Bill-of-FareBlistered-Shishito-Peppers

    Blistered Shishito Peppers with togarashi lemon salt ($6).

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  • Rasa-Bill-of-Fare-1

    Lemon Cheesecake ($7).

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Bright ideas are the best item being served at Rasa Restaurant + Bar, a nouveau contemporary cuisine gem near the University of Toledo.

In a clean, but welcoming dining room of soft whites and earthy complements, diners are treated not to whims, but calculated flourishes. Its seasonal dishes reward patience and attention to subtlety.

Rasa does sit in sort of a strange part of town for the experience, but the Bancroft Street location near UT feels right once inside. And in the blink of an eye, development in the area will eliminate any circumspect perceptions of the exterior.

Rasa Restaurant and Bar 

★★★★

Address: 2633 W Bancroft St.

Phone: 419-725-0525

Category: Fine Casual.

Menu: Contemporary.

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursdays; 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays; 5 to 10 pm. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

Average Price: $$$$

Credit Cards: MC, V, D, AE

Web site: rasarestaurantandbar.com

As local as it can get when it can get it, and made in house where ever possible, Rasa’s menu quietly boasts a chef who has definitely studied an impressive amount about food. There are attempts being made of daring where no novice shall pass.

From the complex (Beet Stained Tagliatelle, $19) to the straightforward (Duck Wings, $14), unexpected charms are embedded everywhere.

I actually vowed to never eat duck wings again. If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know that whatever gave it to you, for you to eat that dish again, it has to simply be the most charming thing on the planet.

Rasa’s Duck Wing’s are that charming.

Each diner agreed on three visits. And no one could keep their hands off the Blistered Shishito Peppers with tōgarashi lemon salt ($6).

But running a restaurant is more than recipes. Once you’ve tried Rasa, it will be easy to understand this 4-star review may come as quite a disappointment to owner Brent Martin and executive chef Abraham Holmes.

They would want to be a six-star restaurant if there could be such a thing. And that is admirable.

But Rasa simply isn’t there yet as a well-oiled machine producing what it expects to produce — which is the best version of its best recipes each and every time, on time, even for a lulling, purposeful pace.

Because something so beautifully considered as the Pan-Seared Sweet Potatoes ($6) is all the more heartbreaking when served 20 minutes late looking like it didn’t survive a house fire.

The tagliatelle was incredible and unlike anything in Toledo, with the perfect low-key spiciness from serrano peppers. But on two separate occasions it was undercut by cold-in-the-middle shrimp. (Note: The dish currently comes with oysters.)

This is disappointing not because the dish was a failure, but for its nearness to grandeur.

My dad hated that experience. But he managed his disappointment just fine in Rasa’s tight, but bespoke wine and cocktail list. (Get the Florence Hotel, $10. This is what a cocktail is supposed to do.) He also voiced his displeasures while polishing off a quivering creamy Lemon Cheesecake ($7) and lush French Press Pot of Coffee ($6). And he loved the Duck Wings.

Even in those side successes, the menu isn’t for everybody — you probably shouldn’t take children unless they’re just the most precocious things you’ve ever seen. There are a lot of complex sauces most children’s palates won’t care for, plus adroit portions at metropolitan prices. Rasa is like a fine play, not an action film.

The restaurant name itself means “nourish” in Sanskrit — a heady notion, because there is philosophy at work in your plate. Rasa has thought about you. A lot. They want you — heightened expectations and all — to have an experience for your meal. And frankly, for what they're trying and how approachable it is in a “fine dining in a T-shirt” sort of way, Rasa is an experience worth having.

In one rolling two-hour brunch, we did see Rasa at its best self. Considerate service at a perfect distance. A DJ playing something unplaceable but gorgeous. Diners sharing bites to left and right. Every kind of beverage filling the table, each its own nice walk in a park.

The Local Cheeseburger ($15) was a goopy, salty bit of heaven with potato wedges and a side of Braised Greens ($3) with the ideal delicate charring for a robust grill taste making for one of the richest, most pleasurable combination of flavors ever had from — effectively — the humble 'burger, fries, and salad' meal.

The Croque-Madame ($14.50) is a sandwich that needs noble craft to even be attempted. Rasa’s is one the favorites I’ve had in the States. The Chorizo Hash ($12) is possibly the most filling thing on the menu, a real chair-tester.

Rasa gets a strong recommendation, especially the brunch. The Toledo dining scene is better for having it. But Rasa also needs to hold its execution to the same standard as its conceptualizations.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com.

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