Ras Vatika Indian Vegetarian Cafe
Nestled in amongst the clusters of Asian restaurants on the Dominion Road strip is Ras Vatika, a long-established Indian vegetarian restaurant specialising in Gujarati South Indian food and North Indian food. If you are looking for a homely Indian food experience, then you will be welcome here.
Colleague Kate and I visited early one evening and settled into one of the small tables for two. We were glad that the restaurant wasn’t too busy as it would have been close quarters indeed.
We were slightly overwhelmed by the food selection on the illuminated menu on the back wall, so were happy to be able to peruse the descriptive printed menu – complete with photos.
The menu is divided into categories: snacks, masala chat, Ras Vatika specials, South Indian specialties, thali meals and chavans, plus drinks and extras. The drinks quickly caught Kate’s eye. She spotted a rose-flavoured Faluda ($7.00), “a yummy drink/dessert made with milk, rose syrup and basil seeds, topped with ice cream and vermicelli”. A beautiful glass of pink-coloured milk arrived and the flavour was like inhaling the fragrance of a rose. Suffice to say that Kate would cross Auckland for this drink.
I was happy to discover that their Masala Tea ($3.50) was not pre-sweetened, so sipped on that while we waited for our food.
There is a certain feeling that you are visiting a home kitchen at Ras Vatika. The staff are friendly and personable, and our server very patiently described the food and answered our questions.
Kate had never tried the popular snack food of pani poori (!) ($6.50/6), so popular at Satya restaurant and even offered at up-market Cassia restaurant. The little crisp cups are filled with mashed potato and chickpeas, and served with spicy water and tamarind sauce. Warning – when you ladle on the sauce, you must very quickly eat the pani poori in one go, as the sauce tends to leak through the cup. We know of what we speak.
We decided to share two main dishes: a Ras Vatika Special Dosa ($12.00) and a medium Ras Vatika Thali ($11.00).
The medium Thali included three roti, two curries (ours were a black-eyed pea curry and a cauliflower curry), dhal soup, green salad, rice and carrot pickle. We requested medium spice curries, but even I could have handled something a little hotter, although the heat did build on the palate as the meal progressed. This thali is the perfect complete meal, with lots of variety, and was our favourite dish.
The special dosa arrived – large does not begin to describe it! The ends were well-overhanging the sides of the plate. I love the thin crispness of a well-cooked dosa, and this one was perfect. The dosa was filled with potato, onion, tomato, peas, coriander and spices, accompanied by a sambhar and a coconut chutney sauce. A great warming dish on a crisp winter’s evening.
Dessert options are limited (a second Faluda drink perhaps?) but there is gulab jaman ($6.00), cooked milk powder balls dipped in syrup and flavoured with cardamom. However, we were happily full and finished our beverages instead.
Ras Vatika is very accommodating to special diets, and will prepare food onion and garlic-free on request and also vegan food.
Ras Vatika should be on your list if you enjoy home-cooked vegetarian Indian food. We will return – the server told us that a rose-flavoured lassi drink is also on the menu!