Last night, as we officially entered Phase 2 of NYC's grand reopening, I sat down and ate dinner at a restaurant for the first time since March 13th. If you're counting, and I certainly was, that's more than three months ago, almost certainly my longest stretch of not eating out in nearly 40 years.

With restaurants all over the city setting up as many outdoor tables as possible—on the sidewalk, curbside in parking spots on open streets and in back gardens and patios—I had hundreds of options for my first meal back.

Somewhat randomly I chose Rahi, the popular contemporary Indian spot in the West Village run by frontman Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya. The duo also own and operate the great Adda in Long Island City, so although I hadn't previously eaten at Rahi I knew I was in good hands both food- and hospitality-wise, the latter for the foreseeable future being as much about safety and respecting pandemic protocols as making customers feel welcome.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

At this point Mazumdar and his team have had a lot of practice working under COVID-19 conditions. "Rahi was only fully closed for one week right at the beginning of the pandemic," he told Gothamist. "And Adda has been open the entire time. Both restaurants served frontline workers via ReThinkFood and Off Their Plate/World Central Kitchen, along with offering delivery and takeout in their respective neighborhoods."

So far Mazumdar and Pandya's procedures have worked. "Everyone has stayed healthy, Mazumdar said. "The staff has been following strict protocols since day one to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of the guests. We are staying afloat and doing our best to support our teams and serve our communities."

Like restaurant and bar owners all over town, Mazumdar has scrambled to configure a "seating chart" that can safely accommodate as many guests as possible during Phase 2.

"The uncertainty and the constant evolution of the situation have been the toughest to deal with." he said. "By the time we came up with any plans, they were obsolete. Navigating between city versus state announcements has been another challenge. And for the rules to come out on Thursday for a Monday opening? That was tricky, too."

One step that was as easy as promised: the outdoor seating permit, which Mazumdar said was granted by the city immediately upon request.

Rahi is located on Greenwich Avenue, which boasts a wide enough sidewalk to allow for several rows of tables spaced at least six feet apart. Mazumdar is also fortunate to have an empty storefront next door, so he is able to spread out tables beyond Rahi's immediate frontage, which is pretty narrow.

He also purchased patio umbrellas—necessary outside on a hot evening before the sun dips behind the building across the street—but stands have been sold out everywhere, so Mazumdar had to get creative and duct tape them to fire hydrant bollards.

Dishes, glasses, and utensils are a mix of disposable and reusable. To keep the number of "touchpoints" to a minimum, each table has a QR code which, when framed in your phone's camera, summons the food and drink menu onto your screen. Your friendly and helpful server is masked up, and you should be too when placing your order, or when going inside to use the bathroom.

There's definitely a party vibe to Rahi right now, with the outdoor grill sizzling and sending smoke down the block and dance music in the air. It felt a little weird to be eating out again, but also familiar, safe, and comfortable.

Prawn Hara Masala ($13)

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

The current Rahi menu is a mix of drinking snacks, grilled items, and full-on entrees like Three Mango Cod, Goat Biryani, and Pumpkin Coconut Curry. Chef Pandya's dishes are as boldly flavored and skillfully executed as you'd expect, and I ate a ton of them last night. Everything that came off the grill was terrific, including the juicy Chacha's Chicken Tikka and the potent Lamb Seekh Kebab, both of which arrive slathered in sauces, sitting on a buttery round of naan, and meant to be eaten by hand, rolled up like a wrap. The Prawn Hara Masala and squares of grilled homemade Dahi Chili Paneer were also first rate.

Other good things were the fingers of soft and gooey Chili Cheese Toast, made with milk bread and Amul, and the crock of seriously spicy 6 Chili 5 Spice Cauliflower florets. The only semi-dud of the feast was the Pulled Lamb Sandwich, marred by slightly dry meat and an overwhelming brioche bun. For dessert, there are refreshing Kulfi Pops, which last night came in a Pistachio flavor.

Can Rahi, Adda, and every other restaurant you can think of, survive? Seating will be extremely limited for most places even into Phase 3 (which will bring indoor dining at a limited capacity), but Mazumdar remains determined.

"We are optimistic about the future of Rahi and Adda, as well as our upcoming venture, Dhamak," he said. "We believe this will be long and tough, and it will test the grit of each entrepreneur. However, if we are flexible and creative, we can prevail. A restaurant is an idea. If we are willing to fight for it and get the right level of support from our community, we can not only survive but thrive. New Yorkers have not forgotten totally about the feeling of dining out, and slowly but surely we will get back to the feeling we have left behind."

Rahi is located at 60 Greenwich Avenue, between West 11th and Perry Streets, and is currently open for dinner on Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and for brunch on the weekends from noon until 3 p.m. (212-373-8900;