Taste of India

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Place Setting: Even on the most beautiful evenings in Washington, many diners choose to eat indoors at this restaurant. For regulars, the reasoning is simple: Why bother with the noise and bustle of Connecticut Avenue when you can enjoy the exotic, cool-blue atmosphere inside? Subtle splashes of blue radiate from neon lights in the cathedral ceiling and blend with the massive silver and dark blue velvet wall hangings that depict scenes from India's ancient Moghul Mahal palace. Maple-colored wooden chairs add warmth to faux-white marble table tops.

Cast of Characters: Located on a restaurant-clogged block of Connecticut, Taste of India attracts a mixed crowd: conventioneers, National Zoo visitors and a large number of loyal locals.

Great Plates: The focus is on Northern Indian cuisine and its typical dishes, such as tandoori (dishes charbroiled in a clay oven), curries, and biryani (rice dishes). All ingredients taste exceptionally fresh. Among the more popular plates are chicken tikka masala ($8.95); charbroiled chicken in a curry sauce; and chicken cadi ($8.95), a traditional, spicy chicken stew served in a wok-like metal bowl. Taste of India stands out in the bread department – it's all baked from scratch. Try the traditional naan, a simple white bread, or ginger-cilantro naan, a flavorful summery version. And with nine vegetarian entrees, Taste of India is a veritable vegetarian paradise.

Waiter's Tip: Take a quick, exotic summer snack with you on your trek to the zoo: Order ginger cilantro naan to go, along with mango lassi, a mango-flavored drink made with yogurt, sugar and rose water.

Good Timing: To bask in the cool blue rays of the neon lights, dine inside at night. Saturday nights are busy so it's best to make a reservation, particularly when the hotel across the street is hosting a convention or other special events.

Parting Thoughts: Family dynamics add to this restaurant's laid-back feel. Taste of India, which opened in 1993, is owned by the Rahman family. Family patriarch and head chef, Khalilur Rahman, practiced his art for many years in London before coming to the United States.

– Amy Wahl