The Washington Post

Curry Mantra 3’s lunch deal appeals

Indian travel posters decorate the small dining room at Curry Mantra 3 in Vienna. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

Asad Sheikh says he aspires to be Northern Virginia’s version of Ashok Bajaj, the Indian entrepreneur who launched his eighth restaurant in the District last year. Sheikh has made good on his intention in the past few years by opening not one but three Indian restaurants, starting with Curry Mantra in Fairfax City in 2011 and adding Curry Mantra 2 in Falls Church last year.

The latest notch in Sheikh’s belt can be found in Vienna under the name (who would have thought?) Curry Mantra 3, introduced in September.

With fewer than 50 seats, it’s the smallest of the empire builder’s dining rooms. Sheikh intends to expand the space by taking over a neighbor’s lease this year. His first goal, he says, is to make Curry Mantra 3 busy.

That shouldn’t be a problem. Lunch finds a deal of a meal in the form of the buffet: 10 or so dishes that always include butter chicken and goat curry, at just under $10 a taker. And among the “Seven Wonders” at Curry Mantra 3 are attractions such as lamb meatballs in a cloak of yogurt zipped up with mint, cilantro and green chilies; and tender chicken arranged with spinach and yellow lentils. Indian standards such as chat masala and sag paneer are executed well, too.

Despite its name, Sheikh’s third restaurant is not a copy of its siblings. Those “wonders” on the menu are original to Curry Mantra 3, for instance, and the design, utilizing glittery tiles and posters celebrating Indian festivals, is also one of a kind.

Bottom line: “I don’t want people to get bored,” says Sheikh of the concept.

Yes, there’s a Curry Mantra 4 in his future. The restaurateur is eager to roll it out in either Alexandria or Arlington — close, in other words, to a future that includes Washington.

262-H Cedar Lane, Vienna. 703-992-6332. Entrees, $14 to $18.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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