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Friends and now business partners Rahul Vinod, 25, and Sahil Rahman, 24, ditched their fresh-out-of-college office jobs to bring D.C. their take on Indian food. It’s a dream not uncommon in their families: “We came back home and were having dinner with both our families when we told the moms, and they were like, ‘Here we go again,’” Rahman says.
That’s because Rahman is the son of Surfy Rahman and Vinod is the son of K.N. Vinod—both co-founders of Cleveland Park’s Indique and Rockville’s Bombay Bistro. While the sons are joining the family business in spirit, they’re also going entering new territory by opening Rasa Indian Grill, a fast-casual Indian concept.
Rasa Indian Grill will emulate a Cava Grill and Chipotle model. Expect to follow an assembly line, selecting from rice bowl, roti wrap, and salad options before choosing a protein, curries in varying heat profiles, fresh toppings, and various chutneys and raita. They’re currently experimenting with proteins including chicken, beef, lamb and a number of vegetarian proteins like paneer, tofu, and a form of Indian falafel.
Rasa Indian Grill will not be the first Indian quick bites concept to land in the region: Spice 6, which allows customers to build naan pizzas and rice bowls, is open in Hyattsville, and Merzi offers similar dishes in Penn Quarter.
Rahman remembers feeling frustration growing up when he told friends his family owned an Indian restaurant. It was met with a sort of stigma—they were afraid of it, they didn’t understand it. Fortunately, he feels the needle has moved. “Now people are trying it, and they like it, but they don’t eat Indian too often because it remains largely inaccessible,” he says. Their goal with Rasa Indian Grill is to continue to make Indian food less intimidating.
Rahman say they’re still raising money and are looking for spaces. “We think there are a lot of places that could work but want to start in the District,” Rahman says. “I love D.C. and we just really want to be in the city and go from there.”
Photo courtesy Sahil Rahman