Ras Vatika Indian Vegetarian Cafe

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596 Dominion Road,

(09) 623 2145

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Review byBrett Atkinson7/04/2009

4 out of 5 stars

One of the good things about the current recession is hunting out the best of Auckland’s budget ethnic eateries. We’ve already said good things about the Malaysian goodies on offer at Selera and Sri Puteri, and now make no excuses for being equally positive about the Ras Vatika Vegetarian Cafe on Dominion Rd. That’s proudly vegetarian and proudly south Indian. I never thought I could be 100% vegetarian, but a recent trip to Sri Lanka opened my taste buds to the potential of well-prepared vege food. South Indian and Sri Lankan food are pretty similar, so I’m looking to Ras Vatika to continue my partial conversion.

Like Selera and Sri Puteri, you don’t head along to Ras Vatika for the décor, although the wooden floors and the exposed brickwork are a step up from the fluorescent lights of the cheap and cheerful Chinese eateries nearby. The first thing I order is apparently only available at the weekends so I make a mental note to return when the tiny café is packed with worshippers and families from the nearby Hindu temple on Balmoral Road.

Instead I kick off with a deep-fried chilli pakora ($1.50) and a samosa ($1.50), both available pre-cooked from the bain-marie. Despite already being prepared, they’re light and not at all greasy. There’s a good selection of dhal and curry also available if you’re wishing to head down the thali route. These one-plate combinations of various curries and condiments are all well-priced from $7 to $18. There’s also great bhel puri to take away – a savoury mix of puffed rice, chilli, spices and veges that makes a perfect bar snack with a few cold Kingfisher lagers. Ras Vatika isn’t licensed so I’ll need to come back for some takeaway bhel puri.

I decide instead to try another classic South Indian dish, a paper masala dosa ($9). There’s other dosa (crepes) available, but this one is easily the most visually spectacular, and comes out as a gossamer-thin roll at least 50 cm wide. Inside is a creamy potato curry, and it’s accompanied by a coconut sambal and a spicy dhal. Knives and forks are discarded and I tear pieces off the giant rice pancake with my fingers.

Just a bit more food like this, and I reckon I could eventually be convinced I don’t really need barbecued steak or good chorizo sausages.

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