RASOEE (140 Spadina, at Richmond West, 416-868-6200) Complete meals for $20 per person ($10 at lunch), including all taxes and a mango lassi. Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step down at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Taking its name from the Hindi word for kitchen, newly opened Clubland cantina Rasoee is the suburban outfit's third eatery. And according to its Web site (www.rasoee.com), it's ready to take on all comers in the fast food industry. But based on my two recent visits, six weeks apart, Rasoee needs a lot of work before it will ever make the big leagues.
The food's pleasant enough, though a sign tacked to the wall warns that all dishes are prepared "fairly mild." Speak up if you want things any hotter. Even ordered full-blast, the heat barely nudges a 2 out of 10 on the NOW chili chart. The space itself is generic (Iqbal has exactly the same chairs and tables), with glamour shots of the individual dishes hanging over the takeout counter. A seemingly endless loop of the same drum 'n' bass track plays over and over.
Service can be confused, bordering on inept. While two cooks loudly deal with the backlog of customers waiting for takeout, a third aimlessly wanders the room, occasionally wiping an empty table. But on another visit, they're the model of efficiency.
The main curries - butter chicken the best - are available in three sizes, an 8-ounce side ($4.25), 8-ounce main with toasted naan or plain basmati rice and basic salad ($5.49), or super-sized to 12-ounce servings ($6.99). For an Indian restaurant, these are meagre amounts.
Rasoee jumps on the low-carb bandwagon with its foul soya flour naan ($2) but successfully delivers Indo fusion with creamy masala potatoes in cumin seed ($1.99) and a very good chicken tikka salad sandwich ($4.49) that would be terrific if the everyday supermarket brown bread it came on were replaced with one of Fred's Bread's super onion buns.
Like the sandwich, Rasoee's tasty chicken samosa ($1.25) makes brilliant use of leftovers. If you order the fritter, don't miss its perfect foil: Rasoee's superb syrupy-sweet tamarind sauce ($1).