Sage advice for restaurants as well as writers, courtesy of Jeff Bezos: Don’t be boring. Rasika in Penn Quarter could easily rest on its considerable laurels, but instead improves on what it does by every year adding fresh reasons to drop in. So while I’m tempted to stick with what I know and love — crisp baby spinach tossed with sweet yogurt and date chutney, silken black cod kissed with honey and dill — my most recent visit focused on chef Vikram Sunderam’s latest efforts.
On the table: a floppy rice pancake (uttapam) freckled with mustard seeds and curry leaves and veined with mushrooms; spicy cubed lamb bundled in tender flatbread (an urbane take on the street food called kati roll); and golden whole trout. The last dish, marinated in yogurt, kaffir lime leaves and chili flakes, emerges from the clay oven smoky, zesty, fit for a maharajah. Everything from this kitchen is great by itself but brighter or hotter when eaten with the vivid chutneys, not to mention Indian breads, the city’s best.
The interior is loud but also alluring in soft shades of orange, gold and green; the servers balance charm with polish.
Unlike so much of the Indian competition, this one treats drinks and desserts as seriously as anything else. Seek out the sommelier for something choice, then, and check out the chocolate bonet, an Italian custard whose saffron sauce waves to India.