Pan-Asian cuisine dished up with a warm whisper of Indian
RAAS [rahh-s]: noun (Indian): (1) a celebration, (2) a traditional Indian folk dance used in celebratory events, (3) (acronym-medical) renin angiotensin aldosterone systems: a hormonal system in the body that regulates blood pressure, fluids and electrolytes.
Oh, and it also means (4): a new Asian/Indian fusion restaurant in Lewes, located at 210 Savannah Road between Heirloom Restaurant and 2nd Street Tavern.
Over a year in the making, Lewes’ newest eatery grew out of a collaboration among several local professionals. Together they are part of Masala Hospitality. Dr. Vinay Hosmane (aka “The Other Dr. Hosmane”) is the smiling ambassador for the new venture and the son of longtime Savannah Road urologist Dr. Ramachandra Hosmane. Vinay practices cardiology in Newark.
The idea of opening a restaurant was hatched many years ago when the Drs. Hosmane met up with Gyanendra “GG” Gupta in the Caribbean. Chef GG cooked for them on many occasions, and, in Vinay’s words, “It was the best Indian food I had ever eaten - next to my mom’s!”
Raas’ Executive Chef GG comes with some impressive qualifications. He started cooking at the tender age of 8; feeding his family (which included five siblings) under the watchful eye of his mother. He eventually went to culinary school for cooking and culinary management, immediately landing a high-profile position in manager training at the 650-room Taj Mahal Palace luxury hotel in Mumbai. It is one of the finest hotels in India. He eventually moved into the chef position and stayed there for five years.
Hotel cuisine is strictly controlled, and GG longed for the freedom of his own restaurant. His longtime friend Vinay brought him to Lewes. He loved the small-town atmosphere, and thus was born Masala Hospitality: a group made up of a lawyer, a yoga instructor and several doctors including a cardiologist, a urologist, a sports medicine doctor, an internist and an ER doctor.
In light of the fact that his restaurant shares the word RAAS with a medical term related to blood pressure and hypertension, the young Dr. Hosmane emphasizes how the practice of medicine is concentrating more and more on prevention. In the spirit of celebration and good health, he and GG wanted to incorporate traditional wellness-affirming spices and recipes into the menu. Though GG’s dad longed for him to become a doctor, the chef smiles as he explains that he’s the next best thing: “A food doctor.”
I first experienced the cuisine of Raas long before the restaurant was open. Dr. Vinay Hosmane, Chef GG and I enjoyed a lavish lunch presented on a sheet of plywood supported by two sawhorses. We were surrounded by workers with circular saws, hammers and nail guns - and it was snowing outside. As we dined on GG’s still-warm feast served in Tupperware, the doctor and the chef explained to me how “food is medicine.” Last week’s pre-opening media party was a bit more formal, with actual servers, heat and light. But I’ll never forget our private moment on Savannah Road with just us three under the scrutiny of about 25 construction workers.
Though Raas is certainly not a “health food” restaurant as such, they are excited about using Indian and Asian ingredients that traditionally improve and maintain health with flavors like clove, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaf, cardamom and the like. For example, cinnamon helps to control blood sugar and cholesterol. Cumin seed mitigates both diabetes and mood. Ginger and turmeric are brewed in teas and act as natural anti-inflammatories. The restaurant uses lots of sweet potatoes in their dishes in order to avoid an excess of white starches.
By the time you read this, Raas will have opened to the public. The menu will grow slowly as the restaurant settles, but there are already tempting dishes waiting for Masala Hospitality’s guests. My favorites so far include the Keema Pao (brightly spiced minced lamb served with soft, warm rolls), the Amritsari stuffed Kulcha (Indian naan filled with cauliflower, potato and cottage cheese) and the Pork Vindaloo with peri-peri (an African chili pepper) and sweet potatoes. As Raas hits the ground running, the menu will expand substantially. But there is certainly something for everyone.
When you visit a quality restaurant, it isn’t just about the food. It’s the entire experience. In India, legend says that your “guest is God.” In Hinduism, it is believed that God can be reincarnated in many forms and could very well be a guest in your home - in fact, some families set an additional place at the table for that purpose. Dr. Vinay, Chef GG and their team hope to re-create that welcoming in-home experience at their new eatery on Savannah Road. If my last visit was any indication, they are well on their way.