Serving up modern Indian fare, I was a little hesitant to make Rasika one of our limited meals in DC. Toronto has some pretty great Indian food and coupled with the fact that it was 35 degrees (celsius) during our visit, Indian food wouldn’t be my cuisine of choice. But after our meal, I was glad we were able to squeeze Rasika in.
Since opening in Penn Quarter in 2005, Rasika has received numerous accolades. Most recently, Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam won the 2014 James Beard award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic after being nominated several times before. Owner Ashok Bajaj, who also owns The Bombay Club, 701 Restaurant and several others, was also a James Beard nominee for Outstanding Restaurateur.
I’m not quite sure about dinner but we were able to easily make a reservation for lunch without much advance notice. You could definitely tell that lunch catered to the business crowd. It looked like Mike and I were the only ones there who weren’t there for business.
To say that Rasika’s menu is extensive would be an understatement. It’s overwhelmingly large! Thankfully our server was incredibly knowledgeable and was more than happy to help us out. He went through the menu thoroughly while pointing out popular and must-order dishes. He asked us about our spice-level preferences and recommended dishes accordingly.
The menu is divided into the following sections: Tawa-Griddle, Sigri-Barbeque, Chaat savories, entrees from clay oven, fish and seafood entrees, meat entrees, vegetarian/side dishes, breads and rice. If you’re hungry, you can go for the Grand Menu which consists of four courses for $58 (non-vegetarian) or $50 (vegetarian). You can also opt for the Chef’s Table which consists of six courses for $75 (non-vegetarian) or $60 (vegetarian).
We started out with the Palak Chaat – crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind & date chutney ($11) which is Rasika’s signature dish. If you go on Yelp or Foursquare, you’ll quickly learn that this is easily the most recommended dish. For good reason – this dish was phenomenal and my favourite of the meal.
Crispy flash fried spinach was topped with dollops of tangy yogurt with a nice bit of sweetness from the tamarind and date chutney. Unlike anything I’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant!
Up next was the Patra Ni Macchi – sea bass, coconut, mint, cilantro ($10). It arrived wrapped in a leaf with a side of potatoes. The sea bass was perfectly cooked and just melted in my mouth. The flavours from the coconut, mint and cilantro were well balanced as there wasn’t a single component which was overpowering. Even Mike who doesn’t love cilantro enjoyed this dish.
Another appetizer we shared was the Lamb Kathi Roll – Tandoori lamb, roti & mint chutney ($10). The kathi roll consisted of a rolled up piece of roti that had been stuffed with slices of tender lamb. The saucy tandoori lamb was packed full of flavour and the roti had a nice chew to it. The roll itself wasn’t very spicy but interestingly enough, the mint chutney had a pretty fierce kick to it.
Chicken Tikka Masala – national dish of England ($16). I don’t have much to compare to since this isn’t a dish I often order but this was absolutely delicious! Succulent chunks of boneless chicken in a creamy sauce that was perfect with the plain bowl of basmati that accompanied the curry.
The last dish we shared was the Chicken Biryani – aromatic chicken, basmati rice & raita ($18). Served in a cute little copper dish, the rice is covered in puff pastry – they definitely get points for presentation. After our server took the top off, we proceeded to dig in. It wasn’t as spicy as I would’ve expected (given that it comes with a side of raita) and there wasn’t very much chicken in it.
Taste-wise, it was certainly tasty but I guess I just expected more from this since everything else was so memorable. The price tag was also quite steep at $18 and the portion wasn’t very large.
As if we didn’t order enough for two people, we also ordered a side of Garlic Naan with Herbs ($3) which we barely touched. If you haven’t already noticed, I have a tendency to over order… Of the few bites that I had, I really enjoyed the naan. Quite fragrant and not as greasy as I’m used to.
In the end, I’m so glad we were able to squeeze this meal into our action-packed itinerary. Rasika’s accolades are well-deserved and the food definitely lived up to the hype!
At a glance:
• Serving modern Indian fare
• Owned by famed restaurateur Ashok Bajaj
• Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam, 2014 James Beard winner for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic
• Many well-deserved accolades since opening in 2005
• Original location in Penn Quarter; second location in West End
• Prices are on the higher side for Indian food
• Excellent service; knowledgeable servers
• Must order: palak chaat
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 4.5 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars