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Raga

Raga interiorI may just have a new favorite Indian restaurant, and its name is Raga.

Raga is one of the newest members of Orlando’s Restaurant Row. It took over the second-floor space that had been occupied by Antonio’s Sand Lake Road. It’s a large restaurant, much more spacious than any other Indian restaurants in the area. And it’s arguably more elegantly appointed than some of the others, too. In fact, the ambience and the second floor location immediately brought to mind Veeraswamy in London, the oldest Indian restaurant in the U.K.

But the food at Raga is better than what I experienced at Veeraswamy. Everything I tasted had a sumptuousness that indicated great care was taken in its execution. And there were plenty of little things that made the experience special.

Such as the papadum. Many, thought not all, Indian restaurants in the area will present guests Raga pappadumwith a small basket of papadum along with chutneys; sort of the Indian version of chips and salsa. Almost every Central Florida restaurant that offers papadum serves them with the same three chutneys: onion, mint and tamarind. I’ve taken to referring to them as the holy trinity of chutneys.

But at Raga, six chutneys are proffered, and only tamarind was familiar. There was a fiery tomato, a cooler raita, mint-basil, an unusual garlic, and avocado, which wasn’t anything like guacamole. And the lentil-flour wafers themselves were unusual, fashioned into little cones and baked in the tandoor oven. They had a bit of spicy heat of their own that only got hotter with some of the chutneys.

On one of my visits I had an appetizer of ragda pati, a Punjabi dish of mashed potato fritters stuffed with lentils and herbs. The fritters were warm, but they were served in a cool and sweetish yogurt sauce that also had crispy fried strips similar to tortillas and chickpeas. A wonderful appetizer.

Raga appsOn another visit I had the more omnipresent samosas, the trangular fried turnovers filled with potatoes and peas. Also good. Bhuna Rattan was a rare offering of scallops, breaded with rice flour and pan-fried. Delicious.

On the lunch visit I had the saag chicken, tender chunks of breast meat cooked in a mildly spiced creamy spinach sauce. It was served with pulao rice (another distinction from Veeraswamy and every other London Indian restaurant that charges extra for rice). But even more impressive was that the meal also included a large bowl of dal and a basket of hot, soft naan. It was a feast for $14.

At an evening meal with a friend, I had the chana chor garam, listed on the menu as the chef’s signature dish. It was a vegetarian dish, a specialty of Old Delhi where it is often served as street food, featuring chickpeas in a spicy gravy. Fairly simple and straightforward.

Raga entreesMy friend had the rogan josh, lamb stewed with cardamom and cloves, spiced up with red chilies. What was notable about this dish, as well as the others, was that the flavors were layered rather than a mish-mash blend, and the spiciness, even when extra hot, did not blot out the other seasonings and flavors.

For dessert, I tried the ras malai, soft-firm discs of paneer in a sweet cooked cream.

The capacious dining room features wood floors, curved ceilings with a brick texture and a golden pattern suggesting tree branches. Massive white columns and delicate white netting help break up the space. Tables are covered with white cloth over golden, and seating is at banquettes, high-back plush chairs or white leather chairs. It is about as elegant as a dining room can be with an open kitchen at one end. (I think the full-view cooking area is another first for local Indian restaurants.)

Service was helpful and attentive, almost to a distraction. Seldom did anyone pass the table without asking if everything was OK or if anything was needed. After a while you want to just tell them to ask the last three people who came by. But if the only complaint about a restaurant is that it tries too hard to please, I’d rather have that than the alternative.

Raga is at 7559 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando. It is on the second level, accessed by steep stairway or via elevator. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to ragarestaurant.com. The phone number is 407-985-2900.

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Comments   

0 #11 Sammy 2013-12-06 11:44
I attended a luncheon party hosted by our friends to celebrate their grand child at this Raga. They had people from out-of-town, the works! Raga was a train wreck! The food and service is a disgrace to Indian restaurants and food. My 14 year old can cook better Indian food than this place. The air conditioner was out (the party was in summer and we were there for lunch). I cant think of one redeeming quality about Rage - food, ambiance and service were dreadful!
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0 #10 KB 2013-03-15 10:20
Went to Raga last night (3/14/13) and it was okay. I fortunately had the Weekly deal so that made it better, and ended up getting my entree free because they added lamb to it when there should NOT have been any in there. I don't eat red meat, and luckily I'm not militant about it, but others could be really po'd. So if you have any dietary restrictions or preferences just watch out here. The waiter said it was because they had "just added" the menu item I ordered--sorry but the chef should know what to put in their chef created dishes! NOT the waiter's fault whatsoever.
They do NOT offer the chutneys and papadams as free appetizers anymore--so that has changed from the review. The waiter told us that even the Indian patrons give them grief over that!
Overall the ambiance was great, food was good, and service was good too. The ras malai dessert was wonderful! May or may not go back at some point, but I would recommend with caveats.
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+2 #9 Mike 2013-02-03 19:44
I heard about Raga from my Indian colleague that it is the best Indian restaurant in Orlando. I also read Scott Joseph's rave reviews. So my wife and I decided to try it out and we invited another couple. That was on Friday Feb 1st. What shall I say ..?! The place, the food, and the service were all very impressive. We loved everything we ate, from the delicious lemon grass chicken to the melt-in-your- mouth Chilean seabass, to their desserts and coffee ("Kahwa") .... The food was very authentic yet not your typical Indian food. It was very refined and sumptuous and everything tasted very fresh, not to mention the elegant presentation of each item. I believe this is because the Indian chef at Raga studied in a French culinary school. And the background of jazz music made the whole experience very unique. we can't wait to go back and try other items. Prices are very reasonable, maybe even on the lower side. Truly the best Indian restaurant in Orlando.
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-2 #8 Jay C 2013-01-31 11:22
Where do I start? Went there for a party (lunch). The Buffet area was always empty, found the staff to be quite rude. Actually very rude. Had to tell the party host about the waiter's rudeness. EXTREMELY POOR service and expensive. Never experienced such a bad treatment at an Indian restaurant, thankfully there are plenty more good Indian places around Orlando. So long Raga......I doubt whether it would survive another 6 months.
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-2 #7 orlando resident 2013-01-24 11:44
We recently had our kids birthday party at raga and these people completely ruined it. They were utterly unprofessional and service was very unpleasant. The manager or whatever he is, named "Nizar" was extremely rude. We communicated constantly with the manager named Franco but of course, Franco was absent on the day of the party and this "Nizar" refused to follow thru on any of the agreements Franco had made and it didn't help that he spoke bad English! They had no idea how to host a buffet party and were not replenishing empty food trays! The waiter, "Yusuf" was asking our guests for money for soft drinks (supposed to be free). These people are delusional if they think they can get away with charging so much for such bad service and mediocre food. A quality restaurant has exceptional food and service and raga has neither. My impression was that since they are barely getting any regular customers, they are trying to fleece the ones who are unfortunate enough to go there!
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-1 #6 Rachel 2013-01-22 21:35
Extremely bad service (very rude waiters and servers). Below average food. Just high prices do not make a quality restaurant. raga is bad...and seeing the empty tables, I'm sure other people think so too. I predict another 6 months at best. never going back.
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+3 #5 arceone 2012-12-30 22:26
I had a few appetizers and is the best ambiance in Orlando very impressive,food and all is great!
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-2 #4 OrlandoPro 2012-12-16 21:40
I had diner at Raga last night on Saturday. Ambience was quite impressive. For appetizer, I ordered the bhuna rattan and the lentil soup, both were delicious. The naan bread was very fresh straight out of the tandoor. For main course I ordered the chicken tikka masala which was awesome. I tasted some of the Pescado (kind of tandoory Chilean seabass) my friend ordered and it was just as good.The service was very attentive yet a bit slow, probably because the restaurant was packed. There are many more items on the menu that I would like to try. Definitely I would go back.
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+2 #3 Shabber Chowdhury 2012-12-16 20:59
Raga has been opened for about 2 months now. With an eye to keep improving we are very open to constructive criticisms. The restaurant has preferred seating by reservation, however we will gladly relocate guests upon request.
As for the missing apricots, we try to stick to the original recipes as much as possible. At times, subtle variations are brought upon by our chef felt to best represent his dish. However as in this case if the guest feels otherwise, we should be able to bring about the desired plate. Raga will continue to strive to bring about the best in ethnic dining in Florida and views all unbiased comments with great sincerity.
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+6 #2 Tropicalsharon 2012-12-15 20:25
Dinner tonight was pretty good but not fabulous. I would say that the food is better than the usual Orlando Indian fare. In a near empty restaurant, I don't understand why we were seated very close to a family with a loud toddler. And I ordered the vegetable korma looking forward to the apricots and almonds in the dish, but they were missing. The waitress told me the dish didnt't call for those ingredients. Really? Didn't she check the menu? Jeesh, I'm not sure we'll be going back.
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Sunday, 21st December 2014

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