On a street with many Malaysian restaurants, Rasa is always busy
It's a combination of the delicious food, friendly service, warm atmosphere and BYO offering that has made this Cuba Street restaurant a favourite for 20 years
There are some restaurants you walk past and do a double-take. Not because of the flash signage or swish interior, but because of the number of people through the window, clearly revelling in what would otherwise be an average weekday night.
Rasa Malaysia falls squarely into this category. Open on Cuba Street for almost 20 years, it has only grown in popularity with its diverse customer base — everyone from large family groups to well-heeled date-nighters BYOing fancy bottles of wine. Travellers check in on their Facebook page, students come for a good night out, and everyone seems to leave with a smile on their face.
Rasa specialises in two cuisines, Malaysian and South Indian. Manager Rahul Bisht says this was to bring something different to the Cuba Street food scene, as well as being reflective of the food that the owner, Uvanesan Narayanasamy, ate and cooked at home in Malaysia.
Uvanesan moved from his life as a chef in Malaysia to work with a catering company here in Wellington, which specialised in Malaysian cuisine. When the company closed, he was taken on as an apprentice chef at Rasa, and eventually took over from the previous owners.
The restaurant’s interior is unassuming but quirky. A bicycle complete with a tiffin hangs on one wall next to jars of spices; drums, assorted images and masks adorn others. Specials are written up on a large mirror near the entrance. The vibe is laid-back, the service friendly, but it’s the food that is the real star.
[Rasa] is a brilliant snapshot of Wellington's diverse make-up - from a big table of young professionals to date night for retirees or Malaysian families after a taste of home.
Beth Brash & Alice Lloyd, The Cuba Street Project, 2018
The South Indian dosai is a menu signature, made from a crispy fermented rice pancake stuffed with warm, spiced fillings. There are a range of options, from lamb to vegetarian, and the rolled pancakes hang over the edge of the plate by a mile. The goat curry, too, is a popular dish, drawing in diners from far afield. While the dinner menu is more extensive, the lunch special is almost ludicrously cheap, with optional add-ons of a flakey roti or creamy mango lassi. The menu is arranged into Malaysian specialities, like laksa and mee goreng, and the South Indian options.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of the menu options, especially on a chilly Wellington day when all you want is to be warmed up from the inside. With a few beers, a few friends and only a few bites in, you might just become a regular.