Ras Plant Based: No Joke Ethiopian-Southern Fusion in Crown Heights

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Ethiopian restaurant in Crown Heights
Photo by Mehru Sheikh

This is Ras Plant Based – a plant based Ethiopian restaurant nestled in Crown Heights. With pathos resembling plants hanging from planters suspended from the ceiling, colorful murals that feature strong yellow and red colors, and decorations that resemble Ethiopian artifacts, the space transports you to tranquility. As I entered and took in the ambiance I was transported to a place where I know I’ll be in good hands with “The Purveyor of Vibes” – as stated on the staff’s shirts.

The Food at Ras Plant Based is Ethiopian Fusion

Every element of the restaurant, from the lantern on the table, to the in-house DJ supplies all who walk in with a curated experience. Additionally, the chatter of the patrons brings a liveliness that makes you feel like you’re a part of something greater.

The food at Ras is Ethiopian fusion. There are many Ethiopian flavors and dishes mixed with classic Southern American cooking bringing a combo I would have never thought about before. To their credit, Ras is a scratch kitchen where all the food is cooked with love. It is honestly very easy to keep forgetting Ras is vegan as it’s not a point to be made, but a fact of their food. All of this also comes with a playful and enjoyable array of food and drink that further cement the vibes. 

The “Fig Fig Bang Bag”

Upon arriving we took our seats, we were greeted by the owners who made us feel very welcome and gave some solid recommendations from the menu for us to try. Our first recommendations were cocktails.

We were recommended their two favorite drinks – the “Fig Fig Bang Bang” and the “Wet Ass Passionfruit”. Legendary names aside, the cocktails were incredible. The “Fig Fig Bang Bang” was smoky and sweet and stood alone as a great cocktail to sip on while the “Wet Ass Passionfruit” took the title of the best-named drink I’ve ever had.

The drinks. Photo by Mehru Sheikh

I am a bit biased as passion fruit is my favorite fruit, but even if you’re not very adventurous with your drinks, you should definitely try this drink. The cocktail delivered an immersive sour fruit flavor, trailed by a slight bitterness brought out by the rum, and a smoky flavor that lingered and made me want more.

Ras Plant Based
Sambusas and “wet ass passionfruit” drink ; Photo by Mehru Sheikh

The Sambusa: A Rollercoaster of Textures

With the cocktails on the table, the remaining recommendations came in. First off were the appetizers – we ordered “sambusas”. The order comes with one potato and one lentil sambusa. The lentil sambusa was a rollercoaster of textures between a crunchy pastry-like exterior and a creamy hummus-like interior delivering a spicy lentil-flavored curry on the inside. 

The flavors brought me back to one of my favorite Colombian dishes, Sopa de Lentejas. The sauce provided a little sweetness and heat which made this a very mouthwatering dish. The potato sambusa reminded me of South Asian-style samosas with a sweetness that reminded me of the type of sweetness that came from tamarind. 

Just like the lentil sambusa, the textures married together to bring something greater than the sum of its parts and the sauce brought it all together. In the interest of honesty, the sauce stole the show for me. One day, I’d love to be able to recreate it for my kitchen at home.

 Ethiopian Southern Fusion in Crown Heights
The Mercato Platter; Photo by Mehru Sheikh

My Favorite Food I’ve Ever Had

For our main dish, were greeted by some of my favorite food I’ve ever had. On two beds of Injera (fermented bread) came the “Mushroom Tibs” on the popular “Mercato Platter”. The Mushroom Tibs were topped in what looked like sautéed onions and microgreens. With excitement, I grabbed a bit of the Injera with my hands and wrapped it around the Mushroom Tibs to taste. 

Ethiopian Southern in Crown Heights
Mushroom Tibs with Injera; Photo by Mehru Sheikh

The first thing that hit me was the sour flavor and pillowy texture of the fermented Injera, followed by a mushroom and onion flavor bomb. The onion flavor reminded me a fajita platter with that zesty roasted flavor. This is by far the best dish I had that night and what I recommend the most.

A Highlight of Ethiopian and Southern Cuisine

Aside from the mushroom tibs, the platter is chock-full of flavorful dishes. I would describe this platter as a sampler highlighting the Ethiopian and Southern fusion. Coming in with dishes like “Yatakilt”, “Gomen”, Missir”, “Shiro”, and “Fasolia”, this platter is your ultimate ticket to trying several dishes at once. The Yatakilt brought in a bit of sweetness from carrots and bell peppers mixed in with the textures of sautéed cabbage and onions, while the Gomen transported me to the South with garlic-forward collard greens. 

At around this time, my drink “Wet Ass Passionfruit” was running a little low and one of the staff came by and gave me the next recommendation to try – the “Ginger Guava Lemonade”. The guava flavor was very strong. It worked well to cut through the savory flavors of the entrees which we still had many left.

My Second Favorite Entree

The “Missir” was my second favorite entree on the Mercato platter right after the mushroom tibs. It is a lentil-based dish with berbere sauce highlighting strong cardamom flavor, again similar to my experience in South Asian dishes like “Masoor Dal”. But what stood out here with this dish is the texture.

This lentil dish melted in my mouth and dispersed its flavor evenly. Another dish “Shiro”, was a creamy chickpea dish that came heavily spiced but held onto a strong chickpea flavor. Having some more solid chunks of chickpeas in the dish made it really fun to grab with injera.

The last dish we had on the platter was a string bean dish called “Fasolia”. This dish had a bit of sweetness from the caramelized onions and the carrots which reminded me of the bacon string beans that I have had at southern restaurants.

The Dessert

At this point, we were stuffed but of course, we couldn’t leave without trying dessert. Our server recommended the raw Red Velvet Cheesecake, made from cashew cream with a chocolate base. Aesthetically, the cheesecake looked like a Japanese-style sandwich where each layer was colorful and separated with neat, bold lines. 

The cheesecake’s chocolate was rich which melded together to balance itself out with the cream, and create a flavor profile further enhanced by fruit. Atop of the slice were strawberries and blueberries that brought the sweet juice of these berries to the flavor profile and added an incredible pairing of sweets for dessert.

At this point, we were compacted with all the delicious food we ate. 

After thanking the staff and having one last conversation with the owners, we left the restaurant knowing exactly where we will be taking our friends next (vegan or not). Our experience at Ras was nothing short of spectacular and I cannot wait to try their other dishes.

Among my regrets was not having their Mac N Cheese. As a big, big fan of Mac and Cheese, I was a little devastated at the end of our meal when I realized there was something on the menu I missed. But that’s alright, I will be back!

For more reviews of Ras check out Yelp.

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