Raaga (Santa Fe)
Well, I had to be up in SF at a meeting all day, so I made reservations for afterward at Paddy Rawal's Raaga (544 Agua Fria Rd., Santa Fe, 505.820.6440, very small parking lot onsite, use Sanbusco's) (this used to be a good Japanese place, name slips my mind at the moment - right near Sanbusco shopping mall). Turned out we were late getting over there, but they were totally cool and let us in right away.
The room is nice, but not particularly well cooled (Santa Fe continues to cling to the delusion that it's not hot there, thermometer at 94° F notwithstanding), and I came away from the place smelling like fried food from the not especially well ventilated kitchen.
Our busser was on us immediately with water, and our server JD was right behind him with menus and a drink (beer/wine only) menu and a friendly demeanor that lightened what had been a long day. The busser returned with finger towels and palate-cleansing shotglasses of lassi or something, and Gina ordered a Pino Grigio ($8). (I was driving home - I got a diet Pepsi. $1.95.)
We ordered vegetable samosa (two large ones with a lettuce, sweet carrot garnish and a nice ramikin of dipping sauce) that came steaming hot and delicious within five minutes ($4.95). Followed that up with Chicken Korma (we ordered it "hot" - the third tier of their 4-tier heat-levels - "lava" is the top - and did not find it especially picante), which came with basmati rice and was absolutely delicious ($14.95). It might have been the best I've had - better than Devon Street in Chi. It was really quite good. We also got a cheese-stuffed naan ($3.95) and Gina got another glass of wine (some sort of Rose de Gris, $10). (She was happy with both the wines - I didn't ask her much about them.)
Anyway, we got out of there for under $60 after tax and tip, and felt it was not only a real value but also a pretty astonishingly delicious meal. Service was great throughout the meal, with a large number of bussers, our server and the owner swinging by to take care of things every two minutes or so. Downside was returning home to find that I smelled like a deep frier - next time I won't wear a business suit.
Go check it out - Raaga has gotten good reviews in the press, and I understand why. We will be back soon.
Excited to try this new restaurant but disappointed by the result. While sauces were ample, the four dishes we had were just that, sauce, with not enough meats or veggies to justify the price point ($13.95-$22.95 entrees). The naan was delicious, as were the potato tikka, but the semolina calamari appetizer had a sauce that was overly cloying. Our Indian-food expert voted the chicken vindaloo uninteresting, and the clay-oven shrimp was severely overcooked. The lamb palak was fairly tasty but there was not enough meat to share, and we were autocratically delivered a substitute for the eggplant dish we had ordered. We sat in the patio, which was very pleasant, but the service, while willing, seemed clearly inexperienced. And two of us suffered indigestion within hours, making us wonder just how fresh the food was. All in all, this place has a long way to go if it is to survive in a town as food-conscious as Santa Fe.
It tasted great, but I feel you. I've got a sensitive nose - smells like that don't trouble me while I'm eating, but I sure don't want to carry them around with me afterward. Gina hypothesized that the smell might have been lessened were we to have sat deeper in the restaurant, but it was full back there. It certainly would have been better outside on the patio, but - as I mentioned - it was too bloody hot to eat out there, especially the way that I was dressed.
When I walked in and got the curtain of grease smoke across my face, I almost spun on my heel and left. I was trying not to be too big of a jerk to Gina, though, so I calmed down. I have to say that the waiter's good humor really helped with that (Well done, JD!) and I very much enjoyed the food - so I'm glad that I didn't walk away.
I may head back for lunch next week (Who'd have thought it? They do a buffet! ;-) ) if anyone from the office is interested. If so, I'll report back on whether smell issues exist - as well as on the quality of the vittles presented.
Went back for the lunch buffet ($9.95) with six of my colleagues - we sat on the patio, which required re-entering via the front door to get to the buffet, but it worked fine. We got there right as the place opened at 11:30, and it was filling up as we left about an hour later.
Quite nice, some fried veggie things, a couple of vegetarian dishes, a couple of chicken dishes, salad, rice pudding, rice, naan. A colleague whose opinion I take seriously on Indian said it was solidly pretty good. I am not shocked to report that the buffet was not as delightful as the food we'd had the other night, but it was good buffet food. Service, again, could not have been better (water coming like lightning as needed and plates instantly whisked away) - this is interesting, because another colleague had a service horror story from Raaga just this past Saturday night. Anyhow, people seemed happy and I would have eaten a whole lot more (the owner stopped by and chided us for failing to eat three platesful apiece).
We went a few weeks ago and I definitely agree Raaga is quite good. Nice room, upscale but not pretentious, impressive array of different food choices, with an expectedly large (and most welcome) array of vegetarian options. This could be a solid compromise option for a larger group, able to satisfy different levels of culinary adventurousness, upscale/downscale preferences, and wallet sizes.
I'd argue the menu is significantly too big, trying to pull from too many Indian regions, which seemed to be leading to hit-or-miss deliciousness. We enjoyed our food well enough, but found ourselves coveting a few other tables' dishes (the biryani looked especially good from afar). One pet peeve is that the naan (probably my single favorite Indian food item) was only ok; I'm sure their various flavored naans are great, but I've had much better basic renditions elsewhere.
A moderate gripe on service: we asked to be seated outside (on our visit it was too cold inside, go figure), and although they had tables open, they said their waitstaff worked different zones, and the outside zone was currently at capacity. Not to be a cranky curmudgeon, but dude, if you have tables available, just rezone your staff, this isn't an unreasonable customer request.
Not rock-bottom cheap, but entirely respectable value for the portion size (ample leftovers) and tony vibe. I look forward to going back, and will be curious to see how this restaurant evolves.