A spread of dishes at Bansari Indian Cuisine in Vienna. Top row, from left: Butter chicken enchiladas, mirch ka salan and rice. Middle row: chole bhature with fried bread, lamb rogan josh and onion kulcha. Bottom row: rice, egg tapori and achari chicken tikka. (Rey Lopez/For The Washington Post)

Unrated during the pandemic

One of Yash Bhatt’s favorite haunts in his hometown of Baroda, a city in west-central India now known as Vadodara, is Raju Omlet, a stand famous for its egg dishes. Bhatt’s religion frowns upon the eating of animal products, and the violence intrinsic with it, but makes exceptions for those who wish to mix their masala with the albumen and yolk of a fresh egg, or two.

People in Gujarat, they usually don’t eat that much meat,” Bhatt says about the Indian state, home to Vadodara. “They do eat eggs, though, since it counts as vegetarian. We do focus on eggs. For me, l love eggs. I always had eggs back home and here.”

When Bhatt signed on to manage Bansari Indian Cuisine, a newcomer in Vienna co-owned by his wife, Nirali, he convinced chef and fellow owner Deepak Sarin to add a few egg dishes. Perhaps because he’s not just the chef but also an old family friend (Bhatt calls him “uncle,” a term of respect toward elders in India), Sarin broke a lot of eggs on behalf of Bansari.

With a beautiful line of Italian-Indian pizzas, Bella does fusion right

There’s a whole “egg mania” section of the menu, designed to provide an alternative protein to the goat, lamb and chicken that are buried under biryanis and gravies elsewhere on the expansive bill of fare. Think: egg bhurji (a scramble with vegetables and masala), egg masala fry (a blistering tomato-and-onion base with two fried eggs that can’t begin to blunt the heat), egg curry (a creamy tomato-based gravy with a whole egg) and even an omelet riff on tikka masala, minus the dark meat.

Sarin has also developed a variation on deviled eggs, sold under the sly, slightly irreverent name of “egg tapori,” a term that invokes an entire Indian subculture and its associations with street gangs. When presented on a hammered metal plate, under the soft glow of bird cage chandeliers in the dining room, egg tapori doesn’t look too far removed from the loaded ovals that grace picnic tables in countless suburban backyards. Then you take a bite and feel the rush of soft masala spices on the palate, buffered by onions and tomato and turmeric-tinted yolks. It’s a dish that could play in Vadodara as well as it does Vienna.

A native of Rajasthan, a state in northern India, Sarin has been a journeyman cook, working in kitchens such as Rasika in Penn Quarter, Bombay Tandoor in Tysons and Punjabi by Nature, the restaurant that preceded Bansari in this ground-level space at the Avalon Dunn Loring apartments. Punjabi by Nature owner Rajiv Chopra was looking to sell his lease in Vienna, and Nirali Bhatt and Sarin were interested. They were interested even as negotiations and background checks dragged on from February to June, from pre-shutdown to full-blown pandemic.

Pani puri is the antidote to the lost summer of 2020

“We didn’t want to back out, because we know the location. We know the potential here,” Yash Bhatt says. “Our chef has that magic in his hands, where we can survive.”

If not magic, Sarin, with more than 30 years of experience, has developed a rare understanding of regional Indian cooking. His menu reflects his knowledge. It encompasses Indochinese, Punjabi, Kashmiri and Rajasthani dishes, with other regional specialties promised as the menu progresses.

First among equals, however, is Sarin’s Rajasthani laal maas, a baby-goat preparation that, back in his home state, might pack as many as 40 dried chiles in a single batch. Those who fear the pepper need not worry: Everything at Bansari can be ordered to your preferred heat level. Sarin will simply add more ground Kashmiri chiles to your dish as you move up the Scoville scale. Those same Kashmiri peppers, along with Guntur chiles from the state of Andhra Pradesh, are part of the base for laal maas. A friend and I sat on the patio one evening, ignoring the drone of traffic along Gallows Road, and marveled at the depth of the dish, its gravy enriched with more aromatics than I could identify by taste alone: green cardamom, cumin, coriander and more.

At age 53, Sarin takes no shortcuts with his cooking. The spices and chiles are toasted and ground in-house, as you might expect. But he also rethinks the classics to find small, but significant, ways to refresh their flavors. I’m thinking about his pani puri, the interactive street snack in which vendors dunk stuffed shells into cool water infused with either tamarind or mint and cilantro. The DIY pani puri at Bansari comes with a housemade water that includes all those ingredients, plus green mango to inject a little tropical acidity into the mix.

I also love what Sarin does with tandoori chicken. He has the traditional yogurt-marinaded variety, served straight from the clay oven, but Sarin has also created a variation, achari chicken tikka, which doesn’t rely on the pickling spice mixture often used in similar recipes. Instead, Sarin grinds and folds actual achar pickles into the yogurt marinade before placing the chicken in the oven. You may never want regular tandoori chicken again.

I ate widely across the menu, as if to see whether the kitchen had any obvious weak spots. I couldn’t identify one. I found much to like (chicken 65, lamb biryani, lamb rogan josh) and some things to admire outright (quail nawabi in a velvety cashew sauce; chole bhature, with two balloons of fried bread to scoop up these chickpeas cooked down in onions, tomato, ginger and garlic; and mirchi ka salan, a Hyderabadi green chile dish smothered in a vibrant peanut curry). My main problem? Bansari was not pouring alcohol during my visits, a situation that made me think, perhaps, I need booze a little too much during a pandemic. But the restaurant has resolved the issue, and the owners now have a liquor license in hand.

Tom Sietsema is on assignment.

For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

Email us at wpmagazine@washpost.com.

Unrated during the pandemic

Bansari Indian Cuisine 2750 Gallows Rd., Vienna, Va. 571-489-8500 or 571-489-8501. eatatbansari.com.

Open: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for lunch; 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Indoor and outdoor seating available. Reservations are accepted by phone for patio seating only. Delivery via Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats and Postmates. Prices: Appetizers $5 to $10; entrees $11 to $21. Accessibility: Wheelchair-friendly entrance and restrooms.