Mixed messages


Good for: spicy Indian food in an upscale setting
Notable dishes: goat curry, bhindi masala


3151 Zinfandel Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

(916) 476-6565

Rarely do you find a surprise in a shiny, new shopping center. Starbucks? Check. Chili’s? Check. Secret little find of a restaurant that blows you away? Not likely.

So it is with Rasoi, an Indian restaurant that opened early this year in Rancho Cordova’s Capital Village.

At Rasoi, you can enjoy a perfectly nice meal of Indian food standards. The staff welcomes you effusively. Sleek, clean surroundings issue no challenge to your sensibilities. As long as you expect or want nothing more, Rasoi fits the bill.

Conversely, owner Prashant Singh hints at individualism on the attractively designed website, wherein he proclaims to embody “adventurous” dining and source locally from area vendors. However nice that sounds, the promise of adventure doesn’t pan out.

With few Indian restaurants in Rancho Cordova, Rasoi does fill a culinary gap. They also use halal meats, which may be important to some eaters.

Order a la carte for the best quality. One night, we started with aloo tikki ($4.99) and samosas ($4.99), both of which arrived crisp and hot and blossomed under dabs of cilantro-mint and tamarind chutneys.

Chicken makhani ($12.99)—also known as butter chicken—featured generous amounts of silky sauce over chunks of moist meat. It comes with rice, but naan is not included at dinner, making the price steep for the quantity.

Everything can be ordered mild, medium or hot, but the mild still skews fairly spicy. The chicken biryani ($12.99), ordered mild, retained enough heat to put off a sensitive eater.

Biryani often abounds with vegetables, although this version had little more than onions in the heavily sauced rice. The large portion represents a better deal than other entrees, though.

Flavorwise, the best hit of dinner was the bhindi masala ($12.99). Okra often gets gummy when cooked, but pan-fried with caramelized onions and tomatoes, the vegetable chunks retained an al dente bite and hint of sweetness. Aloo ghobi ($10.99) also satisfies, with a spicy mix of meaty potato chunks and cauliflower simmered in a vibrant yellow curry gravy.

Rasoi seems to do a brisker lunch business from the large corporations nearby, perhaps because of the all-you-can-eat buffet. For $10.99 ($11.99 on Friday), you get a plentiful supply of fairly warm dishes. Start with a large spoonful of basmati rice and top it with any number of fried things and saucy curries. Sadly, though, a warming pan isn’t the best keeper of quality.

Both the fish and vegetable pakora still crunched in the right places, but lacked any discernible flavor. All of the sauces held up admirably without getting overcooked, but the proteins didn’t. The chicken in the garam masala gravy became stringy, while the goat in the curry sauce suffered from too many bones and gristle.

We nabbed somewhat zesty tandoor chicken legs soon after they were delivered to the buffet, and they retained their moistness. The basket of complimentary garlic naan arrived warm and soft, while mysteriously lacking much actual garlic.

Service is very attentive and friendly, if not always fully informed. Ask about beers, which are available on tap; we lucked out with a $2 pint that our server didn’t mention was a Saturday special. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, three large televisions play sports or other programs constantly.

Character in a restaurant can’t be forced. It requires touches of individuality that surpass customer expectations and a few welcome surprises. Rasoi doesn’t seem to have nailed those down yet. But if you find yourself in Rancho Cordova and need a quick and hearty lunch in a modern setting, Rasoi is your place.