Raga keeps up with the times with nourishing vegetarian cuisine

The Vancouver restaurant's revised menu includes two eggplant and eight paneer entrées, as well as three potato-infused curries

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      One of Vancouver's oldest Indian restaurants is also one of the most contemporary.

      Raga (1177 West Broadway) underwent a makeover during the pandemic, with newly upholstered furniture complementing a more chic interior.

      The owner of the 40-year-old establishment, Raj Sharma, has also added an extensive selection of vegetarian specialties to the menu in response to consumer demand.

      "I don't know if it's trendy or for health, but they're asking for it," Sharma told the Straight during a recent visit.

      The revised Raga menu includes two eggplant and eight paneer entrées, as well as three potato-infused curries. That's in addition standard vegetarian classics such as saag paneer and bhindi masala, along with other dishes.

      Sharma said that after including desserts and naan, there are about 30 vegetarian offerings on Raga's menu.

      Raga owner Raj Sharma spruced up the interior of his restaurant during the pandemic.
      Charlie Smith

      The meals in some Indian restaurants can be jarringly spiced and heavy in the gut, but not at Raga, where the cooking is subtle and the dishes are skillfully flavoured. It's exceptionally low on grease. And you won't leave this room with your mouth on fire.

      That was apparent during my visit when I enjoyed a sumptuous feast. The Raga Vegetarian Bhojan ($20.95) featured black dal and two vegetable curries, along with pulao rice, raita, freshly made naan, and dessert.

      If you're starving, vegetarian, and in need of a good, warm dinner on a rainy night, this will do the trick.

      For centuries, the soul of Indian cuisine has been vegetarian.

      Sharma pointed out that even non-vegetarians in his home country often eat meat only on weekends or special occasions.

      But in recent years, the popularity of butter chicken and tandoori chicken has created a misleading impression in the West that Indian cooking is all about the meat when it's not. It's the opposite, actually.