Food critic

The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2018 Spring Dining Guide.


Kulfi on a stick with sweet noodles and a rosé sabayon at Bindaas. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Bindaas

(Good/Excellent)

There’s lots to like about the colorful Foggy Bottom extension of the Cleveland Park restaurant, starting with the fact that the new place is double the size. The extra room translates to a bigger adventure — an exhibition kitchen fronted with stools and a ceiling lit up with cane baskets — and a longer list of Indian street food snacks, including sliced smoked eggplant, onion and feta in a light wrap of roti, and a quartet of gingery lamb meatballs, dappled with a sauce of tomato and mace on a base of sunny saffron rice. At any given meal, the clientele, wedged into tables that are too small for everything they want to order, resembles a Benetton ad. (The World Bank is a neighbor.) The result is barely controlled chaos in what feels like a Mumbai market at prime time. Loud, in other words, but also a treat, especially if your passion is for steamed rice cakes and chicken curry, and there’s not a trip to India on the horizon.

2 1/2 stars

Bindaas: 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-516-4326. bindaasdc.com.

Open: Lunch and dinner Sunday through Friday, dinner Saturday.

Prices: Snacks, sandwiches and small plates $2.50 to $15.

Sound check: 79 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.

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The following review was originally published Nov. 24, 2017.


Butternut squash uttapam is one of several meatless dishes at the second branch of Bindaas, which is now open in Foggy Bottom. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

A bigger stage for the best Indian street food in town

The delicious advantage the freshly minted Bindaas in Foggy Bottom has over the Indian street-food purveyor of the same name in Cleveland Park is made obvious the moment you step inside: The 100-seat spinoff, a gratifying successor to Johnny Rockets, is more than double the size of the original.

The sweep translates to a menu that goes beyond what’s playing in Cleveland Park to include sandwiches and curries; more wall space for art; and an exhibition kitchen. “The chefs are on show!” says the leader of the pack, Vikram Sunderam, whose other responsibilities include the popular Rasika and Rasika West End restaurants.

In a glance around Bindaas, it looks as though half the World Bank, among the eatery’s neighbors, has begun taking lunch and dinner here. The tables invariably find at least one order of pao (buns) on them. A toasted roll in the company of minced lamb, shot through with pureed Thai chiles, suggests a sloppy Joe by way of Mumbai. (Chopped tomato, cucumber and onion on the plate have a cooling effect on the heat.) I prefer buns to the tame “roadside” sandwich built with twice-fried chicken and flanked with “gunpowder” fries that may only hint of firepower.


Kheema pao features a toasted bun and a cooling vegetable mix to top minced lamb full of pureed Thai chiles. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

The tables are small. Order a few dishes at a time to prevent overcrowding or the forfeiture of a remaining bite on a plate. The meatless draws include a crisp, saucer-size steamed rice cake (uttapam) spread with minced, roasted butternut squash and a dollop of wicked cilantro-coconut chutney, as well as a pleasing curry cast with carrots, peas and caramelized onion, plus hits of mace and cardamom. The saucy curry tops a bowl of sunny yellow basmati rice.

Bindaas uses a pizza oven rather than a traditional Indian tandoor to make its pillowy naan. The hot pocket, with a light application of spinach and cottage cheese inside, is a deal of a meal — and a nice swab — for $4.

From a design perspective, the baby Bindaas trumps its sibling. Basket lights made from cane dress up the ceiling; mirrored columns come with the bonus of coat hooks; and nods to overseas include colorful prints of graffiti and clocks of the sort you see in Indian train stations. The crowds I’ve encountered, day and night, make a strong case for reservations. Solo diners might consider the shelf-style seating near the host stand.


With seating for 100, the latest Bindaas can serve more than twice as many diners as the first Cleveland Park location. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Carryovers from the original Bindaas include a salmon kebab draped with a creamy sauce of coconut milk and curry leaf, and the sheer, bite-size puffs filled with near-liquid avocado, yogurt and tamarind chutney, called golgappa. Typical of the chaat dispensed from food stalls and carts abroad, the delicate snack comes with a playful warning: “Eat them in one bite,” owner Ashok Bajaj says when he spots an order on your table.