Rasoi: South Indian Cuisine in Pawtucket

Chef Sanjiv Dhar from Rasoi (stop #3 on the Rhody Food Tours: Immigrant Cuisines of Providence).

When I miss New York after reading that there is a fancy new yakiniku place around the corner from our old apartment, Michele takes me to Rasoi. I remember that Indian food was lousy in the West Village. And South Indian food? Forget it.

The Thali at Rasoi.

Not in Providence. There are several great South Indian places nearby, and Rasoi is one of them. Upon every visit, I order Thali — but I never have the same meal twice. Six or 7 small bowls surround a mound of rice, and tonight the bowls were filled with spinach and homemade cheese (Saag Paneer); yellow lentil stew; a thick, sweet sambar; red-roasted cauliflower; homemade yogurt; a sweet potato curry; and a little dessert.

As an aside, I should mention the mixed pickle at Rasoi. For me, mixed pickle is the corned beef hash of the Indian restaurant world — it’s a barometer of how good the food is. The mixed pickle here is a delicious mixture of pickled lemon, peas, and bitter melon — and it’s tender (I don’t like that hardened lemon skin in most store-bought Indian pickles).

The traditional Indian dishes here are great too. The simple Chicken Tikka is delicious, with a crisp shell and fresh herbs instead of the more common red pellicle-crust that covers it after a bake in the tandoor. Their version of Biryani combines a sweet and savory assortment of whole spices. And a bowl of their Idli Sambar is as good for dinner as I imagine it’d be for breakfast in India.

Rasoi Restaurant
727 East Ave # 6
Pawtucket, RI 02860-6184
(401) 728-5500

Rhody Food Tours

Legendary Lovers Collection for Valentine’s Day

The mouth-watering Legendary Lovers collection from Garrison Confections.

The mouth-watering Legendary Lovers collection from Garrison Confections

I know I already wrote about Garrison Confections, but I felt compelled to highlight their Legendary Lovers collection of handmade chocolates for Valentine’s Day. The truth is I adore chocolate, but I generally dislike boxes of chocolates. I find most of them have unappetizing gooey centers so the box ends up filled with half-bitten, abandoned blobs.

But not the Legendary Lovers collection. Each of these little morsels contains a perfect balance of soft interior with a thin crisp chocolate outside, such as the John & Yoko, a homemade pistachio marzipan enrobed in dark chocolate, or the Francois Bouche, a raspberry ganache and raspberry pâte de fruit enrobed in dark chocolate. Of course, expertly made chocolates like these come at a price — $26 for a box of 12 to be exact. The truth is we are lucky to have such an extraordinary chocolatier in our state — chocolate this good is hard to find at any price. It may seem expensive, but like fresh locally grown produce, there’s value in the real thing.

Yesterday, we stopped by their Central Falls location — a modest building with a miniature chocolate shop inside manned by chocolatier Andrew Shotts himself. They are typically not open to the public, but made an exception this weekend and will be open Monday, February 14 from 11 am-6pm, so there’s still time to taste for yourself (they also take online orders). Even better, he shared the news that he’s planning to open a shop in Providence. So I guess I’ll just have to go there myself when they open and eat more chocolates for yet another report.

Garrison Confections
72 Ledge Street
Central Falls, RI
www.garrisonconfections.com (see their Valentine’s collections)

La Sorpresa

At La Sorpresa, this little sampler is ideal.

When I walked into La Sorpresa’s new location on East Avenue, I immediately noticed some thick slices of crisp pork belly. But it was an enticing little sampler dish that the customer ahead of me ordered that piqued my interest.

A fresh paper tray of plantains, morcilla, smoked sausage, tiny potatoes, crisp-skin pork belly and thin, roasted rib meat (seen in the photo, wedged between the morcilla and the plantain, in the center) was prepared for me, and I ate a beef empanada while I waited. I spotted a particularly puffy pastry on my way out, which turned out to be their delicious homemade version of a raised Colombian doughnut filled with dulce de leche.

La Sorpresa Bakery
498 Broad Street
Central Falls, RI 02863-2844
(401) 475-0032

La Sorpresa
385 East Avenue
Pawtucket, RI
(across from the Modern Diner)

Little Bites of Heaven – Peruvian Treats

Buttery cookies filled with dulce de leche.

I had never tried Peruvian desserts before yesterday, and now I know what I’ve been missing. This weekend , I stopped by the Little Bites of Heaven stand at the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market and tried several of their offerings including “Sweet Divine” (Alfajores) butter cookies with dulce de leche filling; “Blissful Choco-tejas” soft caramel and pecan candies covered with dark chocolate; “Holy Cake Roll” a vanilla cake with dulce de leche filling; and “Heavenly Lucuma” chocolate shortbread cookies with lucuma filling. Lucuma, for those who don’t know (I didn’t) is a fruit native to Peru with a flavor resembling maple.

Soft caramel and nut inside a crisp chocolate coating.

Since they don’t have a store yet, you’ll have to go to the winter market to sample for yourself (which is well worth the trip anyway). Perhaps soon enough they’ll go the way of the Cupcakerie and have a store of their own…

Tiny Bites of Heaven
available at the Winters Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays