Written by on May 5, 2012 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(rasikarestaurant.com) – Penn Quarter, Washington, DC

How I heard of this place: Initially, my friend Zitta recommended that we try Rasika for some of the best Indian food in town. She highly encouraged us to choose the cod and the crispy spinach. It wasn’t until I found an article online for the 40 dishes that all Washingtonians must try, that Rasika made it to the top of our list.

Type of cuisine: Modern Indian cuisine, showcasing Tawa (Griddle), Sigri (open Barbeque), Tandoori and regional dishes. A temperature controlled wine cellar and small plates can also be found in this modern lounge. “Rasika, which is derived from Sanskrit meaning “flavors,” is the award-winning modern Indian restaurant owned by Ashok Bajaj. Bajaj was recently named by both Washingtonian and Washington City Paper as “Restaurateur of the Year” and nationally, he is a three-time James Beard Foundation nominee for “Restaurateur of the Year”. The restaurant was designed by Harry Gregory of ARA Design, London, UK.

Rasika is a modern Indian restaurant which takes its inspiration from an age old approach to dining. This approach allows you to choose a variety of appetizers and entrees to share with your dining companions. To enhance your dining experience, our sommelier will be happy to pair appropriate wines with your food selections.”

Table Spread

Ambiance: “At Rasika, You can enjoy different dining venues including a showcase open kitchen where you can see our chefs cooking on the Tawa (griddle) and sigri (bar-b-que), a relaxing bar and lounge area, a community dining table, the main dining room or a private dining room.” Walking through the glass front door, we were immediately intrigued by the spacious, modern, dim-lit space. The warm colors of burnt siena and orange, and amber lighting set against the hearty wooden tables and dark furnishings make you feel at once welcome and warm, yet keep you sitting up straight in your chairs as the atmosphere exudes elegance and modern chic. Comfortable seating on cushioned benches in a long booth with cozy chairs across for diners in pairs makes its home across a wide, hardwood floored, aisle-way from the extensive bar. Glass-backed armoirs make room for more wine just beyond, towards the back of the restaurant and the chef at the Tawa. Small, yet vibrant orange tiles mark the walls of the Tawa, and very beautifully frame the glass squares of numerous spices and seasonings in what resembles wall art. Speaking of which, “Rasika’s sophisticated ambiance is enhanced by beautiful pieces of art, which include oil and canvas paintings by Arunabha Karmakar and sculptures by Vineet Kacker.” The entire space exudes tasteful, artistic and creative, with beaded curtains separating the space between lounge seating and restaurant seating. Servers and staff blend into the background, as they stand up against the walls, out of the way and ready at the wait. (My husband said they seemed like vampires, lurking in the dark.)

What I ordered: Knowing immediately that we wanted at least one Palak Chaat ($10) – crispy baby spinach topped with sweet yogurt tamarind and a date chutney – we started our ordering there.

Crispy Spinach

Our server, Sisay, recommended getting three orders of it, which we did end up doing, but started with just the one, along with Cauliflower Bezule ($8) – breaded and deep-fried cauliflower topped with mustard seeds, green chiles, curry leaves, and lemon juice – and the Ragda Patties ($8) – spiced potato patties with chick peas, laying in a puddle of tamarind date and mint chutney.

Deep Fried Cauliflower

After downing all three dishes, and adding two more orders of the Palak Chaat for Carolina and Chris, we were ready to order our main entrees: Chicken Tikka Masala ($17), the National dish of England,

Chicken Tikka Masala

followed by Paneer Chili Garlic ($14 for half-portion): cottage cheese, ginger, green chilies and red chili flakes. And finally, the Black Cod ($26) topped with a vinaigrette of fresh dill, honey, star anise and red wine vinegar.

Black Cod

As full as we were, dessert was not something we could refuse, and ended up with Chris’s choice: Coconut Jaggery Creme Caramel ($9)

Coconut Dessert

and Sisay’s favorite: Date and Toffee Pudding (came out like a light cake) with Berries.

Toffee Pudding

What I loved: I know, for a fact, that the Palak Chaat was the favorite of my dining companions, however, for me, each dish, better than the last, was something that made picking a favorite one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Everything was delicious, bursting with flavor, excellent combinations of texture, sweet and tart combinations married with spicy oomph. The entire meal was, by far, the most amazing Indian culinary adventure any of the three of us had had to date.

Table & Plates

Why I loved it: Gorgeous setting, spacious seating area and tables, incomparable food quality and presentation. The entire experience was one worth repeating, over and over again.

Cost: High ($17 – $36 per dinner entree)

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