Photos by C. Whitney-Ward
This is Paddy Rawal. He has a very good reason to be all smiles. His newly- opened restaurant RAAGA, has gotten smashing reviews and he is truly living his passion - sharing his exquisite palate and talent for fine Indian cuisine with all of us in Santa Fe. It's a very tasty win win situation.
A native of Bombay, India, Paddy chose a culinary career early on and his first mentor and teacher was his Mother.
"I came from a family of seven and all of us would sit at the table at the same time. Mom would be in the kitchen doing all the cooking; very proud that she was feeding her family. Everything she made was fresh and delicious. One day I decided to cook with her. 'You come and cook with me every Sunday,' she said. And I did. Then one day I told her to sit at the table and I'd do all the cooking."
He was seventeen and discovered that he loved to cook. He went on to culinary school and did everything expected of him and everything not expected of him. "My father always told me, 'whatever you do in life, do it well and with passion,' recalls Paddy, who clearly learned that lesson well.
RAAGA is intimate with a handful of booths and tables, but that's what makes it so fun. You can peek at your "neighbors' table and get a birds eye view of what they're eating, and conversations between complete strangers start up and continue throughout the meal. And the restaurant is always packed with interesting folks. And now that the weather is lovely, the patio is open and inviting...
Now on to the food. It is elegant, delicious and a riot of flavors, celebrating the Northern Indian Cuisine favored by his Mother. And Paddy is truly a wizard of spices. He imports fifty or so different spices and uses them with finesse and purpose.
But, he's also added dishes with a definite New Mexican signature - note the Stuffed Poblano Pepper appetizer on the menu. And the sauce in the ramekin? It is so amazingly delicious, I could order just that and be a very, very happy camper.
I'd slather it all over the wonderful tandoori-baked Naan bread.
That sauce, reveals Paddy, is made fresh daily and is really two sauces. One is a melange of cilantro, green chili, mint, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, and sugar.The other is made from tamarind, raw cane sugar, and dates.
The menu features: grilled delights from a clay oven, vegetarian, chicken, lamb and seafood curries, and traditional Biryani dishes (the one below is Paddy's take on a Spanish Paella).
RAAGA serves a delightful and delicious buffet during lunch, a wonderful way to taste what's on the regular menu; the buffet menu changes daily.
PADDY RAWAL'S RAAGA
Fine Indian Dining
544 Agua Fria Street
Santa Fe, NM