Since opening in November, the character of Rasa Restaurant and Bar— located on Bancroft St., just off Ottawa Park— has revolved around a concept. Local. Seasonal. Healthy. Community.
Everything presented in the sophisticated, but not pretentious, an establishment is focused on being locally made— from the produce used in the composition of the food to the wood used in the making of the tables. The menu is constantly evolving in response to the availability of fresh ingredients. The dishes provide healthy, yet delicious, a cuisine that breaks the stereotype of foods that are good for you is less pleasing to the palate. And Rasa also works to build a rapport with customers, giving them a sense of ownership of, and pride in what they do.
“In every little detail, in every little aspect, we try to stay true to our concept, which is organic, local, seasonal,” said Brent Martin, owner, and general manager. “Simple. Fresh.”
For Martin, who grew up in Ottawa Hills just a stone’s throw from Rasa’s current location, the creation of the restaurant feels like a culmination of a life’s journey.
“It’s sort of been a long-time coming, it’s a project that has been on my list,” Martin said. “I went to art school to study interior design, before that I was in the culinary program, studying hospitality. And I think just moving back to Toledo and having some experience traveling, and living in bigger metropolitan cities— there’s a lot more offered, not only just dining out but a place to relax and hang out and have an experience, rather than just go out to eat.”
One particular establishment that struck him on his journeys abroad was La Menagere, a concept restaurant in Florence, Italy. A combination bar and restaurant that presents delicious cuisine in a beautiful, homey setting, La Menagere was a key touchstone when Martin began setting out the concept for his own restaurant in his hometown.
From the bright, warm lighting and white color palate, to the abundance of potted plants that decorate the space, Rasa is clearly out to set its own unique identity from the second one enters its doors. It’s a visual concept that is meant to evolve and grow with time, Martin explained.
“I think with anything I do, design-wise, it’s always organic in nature. I set out with an idea, and it sort of takes a life of its own. And that’s sort of what happened here,” Martin said.
“And also, I wanted to strip away the sense of commercialism. Because what a lot of people say when they come in is, ‘Oh, it feels like home. I feel like I’m in somebody’s house.’ So we wanted to curate an experience that felt like somebody’s home, it felt comfortable to be here, to stay here, to hang out here. And to want to come back.”
“The food is something different,” Martin said. “We’re experimenting with really simple ingredients, but really fresh ingredients. And the travel time from the farm to the table is, in a lot of cases, less than 20 or 30 minutes.”
When many diners think of the words “organic” or “healthy,” they have a tendency to retreat back to the comfort food of their local diner. The stereotype is that one has to sacrifice flavor in order to eat something good for you— a stereotype that Rasa tries to shatter with every item it presents.
“One of our best-selling dishes is the cauliflower steak,” Martin said. “It’s a totally vegan dish, and we treat the cauliflower like it’s a piece of steak, in that we cut it pretty thick, then we sear it on both sides at high temperature so it gets really caramelized. It has a lot of flavors.”
Rasa’s current dinner menu features other favorites like Stir Fry Broccolini and the Kaleidoscope Greens Salad, with collards, mushrooms and shallots served with a lemon vinaigrette. It also offers a cheeseburger, but true to RASA’s soul, the beef comes from local, grass-fed cows.
“We’re sort of trying to bridge the gap between fast casual, which is what a lot of Toledo has, and the really fine dining places, where people only go to for special occasions,” Martin said.
The Bottom Line
With Rasa, Martin and his staff have indeed created a space that merges the two aesthetics into a sublime dining experience, one that feels both sophisticated and personable.
Lunch: 11am-2pm, Tuesday-Friday.
Dinner: 5-10pm, Tuesday-Friday.
Brunch: 11am-2pm, Saturday & Sunday.
2633 W. Bancroft St., 419-725-0525. Rasarestaurantandbar.com
2 oz ginger skin – removed and chopped rough
2 oz. grape seed oil
1 oz. tomato paste (this is packed with umani)
1 whole lime – don’t forget the zest
4 garlic cloves – smashed to remove skin
1 shallot – skinned
1 Tbsp. Honey or Agave
3 1/2 oz. Miso (use Miso Master or Cold Mountain mellow white)
6 oz. Tahini
Peel outer layer of ginger and use a hand juicer on limes.
Put Tahini in the food processor. Add tomato paste and blend on low until the paste becomes smoother. Add shallot, garlic and ginger (ginger has a fibrous strand that will change the consistancy slightly).
Add grape seed oil to thin out the mixture (add more oil for a thinner dressing or reduce oil if you want it thicker),
Add miso, honey and lime juice to blends. The color should be a light hue of auburn.