The March 7th opening of Ras Plant Based continues to fuel Crown Heights’ reputation as a hotbed of diverse cuisines that’s making this central Brooklyn neighborhood one of the most exciting.
In an area known once known as a hub for the Caribbean community, this slice of the most populous borough now boasts restaurants offering everything from Burmese (check out the recently-opened Rangoon, a former pop-up) to the exciting Tamra Teahouse offering a mashup of Latin cooking and Pan-Asian ingredients. These establishments have highlighted how Brooklyn restaurants are often more in tune with how diners want to eat today: more than ever, people want plant-based options and a dining experience that feels exciting without being fussy.
The husband-and-wife team of Romeo and Milka Regalli knew they wanted to be part of this growing culinary scene when they were looking to open Ras Plant Based nearly a year ago. Their cozy Cobble Hill restaurant Awash has been a destination for Ethiopian cuisine and at their new 65-seat restaurant—formerly a sports bar—the focus is on a 100 percent vegan menu that draws on organic and local ingredients as much as possible (Pilot Kombucha and a Brooklyn-made soda are just two sources).
“We’ve always wanted to open in Crown Heights and for it to be a plant-based restaurant,” says Romeo, who met Milka at Awash before the couple took over the restaurant. “It’s not something that just came up."
The lunch and dinner focuses on more traditional dishes (many inspired by family recipes), according to Romeo. You’ll find the communal dishes popular in Ethiopian cuisine like platters of injera, the spongy flatbread used to eat spreads such as gomen (braised collard greens with diced tomatoes and onions), missir (a slow-simmered red lentil stew served with a spicy berbere sauce), crunchy zucchini and key sir (savory beetroot).
For brunch, diners will find more modern touches such as the fish and grits, where the mushrooms fried with kelp replaces the “fish” and the Awaze Chic’N & Waffles, where cauliflower replaces the chicken and is served atop Belgain waffles.
The restaurant is still awaiting its liquor license but in the meantime, mixologist Hadassah “Daisy” Austin has whipped up mocktail options, including the Green Me Tea (cold green tea with lemon juice, simple syrup and muddle mint) and Cold Fashioned (cold brew with Angostura and orange bitters and simple sugar).
There’s also Ethiopian-inspired graffiti by artist Ras Terms adorning the walls of the airy space, which will also set stage for Ethiopian coffee ceremonies taking place once to twice a week. The hour or so long event features the washing, roasting and grinding of the beans in front of guests before you sip the coffee, usually in three rounds with an accompaniment of snacks.
It’s also worth noting that Ras Plant Based is part of a growing number of restaurants highlighting African cuisine, including Teranga in East Harlem.
“It’s our little baby,” says Milka. “It’s also our own way of being sustainable. We’re trying to use as little waste as possible, changing whatever we can to make the planet better.”