When I watched every patron in Tustin's Rasoi Curry Point decisively turn down the waiter baring metal vessels of hot, fresh and free thali refills, I should have known what I was in for.
They, like me, had chosen to partake in the restaurant's "lassi festival"--billed to include, along with an all-you-can-eat platter of Indian fare, 16 cups of lassi in a motley assemblage of flavors that don't necessarily scream "pairs well with drinkable yogurt." As it turned out, Rasoi Curry Point's chef was not content with the 16 promised flavors -- the original list comprising sweet, salty, mango, guava, strawberry, blueberry, peach, pear, cherry, melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, green apple, chikoo (saspodilla), lychee and raspberry varietals. No, a handful of other flavors cropped up that day, including gulab jamun, saffron and blackberry--all this for a pittance of $8.99.
The accompanying thali lunch came with a chicken or vegetarian option, both of which were equally tasty and would merit multiple refills under normal lunch circumstances. Standouts include paneer jalfrezi, chunks of semisoft paneer and onion coated in a tangy, spicy sauce, and the tamarind chutney, which struck a balance between sweet, spicy and zesty. With so many cups of lassi, however, the food was overshadowed. It was merely a vehicle to break up the throat-coating monotony of an Adam Richman-worthy challenge. I'd brought a dining partner to tag team the endless lassi, but God Bless those brave souls who went it alone.
That's not to say the lassi wasn't delicious. All were made fresh from scratch. The assortment made me wish other Indian restaurants would expand their offerings beyond plain and mango lassi--though Rasoi Curry Point's mango lassi was -- excuse the pun -- on point. Light and fruity, it's a refreshing take on the classic flavor.
While I'd like to list cup by cup the lassi successes and shortcomings, I can't. This is because there were neither labels nor anything else--apart from the server quickly rattling them off and my own taste buds--to identify the flavors on the tray of lassi cups. My palate was tested as if I were in one of those "advantage challenges" on Top Chef, with Padma Lakshmi turning her beautifully sculpted nose up at my mistaking ginger for nutmeg, or if I was one of those crazy wine dudes from "Somm." At one point in my notes I scrawled, "fucking BERRIES they're all the same" because if we're being honest, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries--all but blackberries, with their infernal molar-sticking seeds--taste pretty damn similar when blended to a pulp.
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A few were obvious. The watermelon flavor was identifiable by smell alone, and, like its mango counterpart, totally bright and refreshing. The saffron lassi, while subdued in flavor, bled yellow amongst its milky white backdrop like a watercolor painting. The guava was so riddled with teeth-breaking seeds it was identifiable by texture alone. Pear tasted like, well, pear--a testament to the drink's fresh ingredients. Easily the most decadent, the gulab jamun fast became my favorite. Silky, sweet and lightly spiced, it made a milkshake out of my plastic lassi cup.
Most, however, bled into one cup of lassi after another. Somewhere in the mix my fellow diner and I consumed various melon, lychee, apple, chikoo--a fruit I've admittedly never had--peach, sweet and salty cups of lassi.
I enjoyed trying so many flavors of lassi and appreciated such culinary ingenuity, but the "too much of a good thing" adage still rings true. Consuming that much yogurt and sugar is like eating your way through an entire ice cream carton: a body-punishing act. My final notes read, "I need a nap."