Sheikh, who also owns two branches of Bombay Street Food in Washington, didn’t rely on any old recipe for butter chicken. He went so far as to send his chef, Praveen Kumar, to the original source, Moti Mahal in New Delhi. Kumar spent 10 days at the restaurant, which wouldn’t reveal the exact recipe but whose cooks shared enough instructions to arrive at an approximation. Fresh tomatoes, cream, butter and fenugreek make for an agreeably rich curry at Butter Chicken Company, which prepares only enough food to last until about 2 p.m.
Additional big copper bowls, designed for Sheikh in Jaipur, contain the rest of the menu, including chicken tikka masala, saag paneer and chana masala. A couple of trips to the new lunch destination formed my strategy going forward. I prefer the zesty butter chicken to the sweet tikka masala, and the curried chickpeas to the thin spinach and cubed cottage cheese. Basmati rice serves as an underliner for your entree, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking for a scoop of the very good vegetable biryani, ignited with pickled vegetables.
The crew behind the counter doles out customer’s choices — $11 gets you an entree and two sides, plus (dull) naan — in strapping portions apt to lead to a nap. I suspect I wasn’t the only patron leaving lunch with dinner in tow. Condiments include a vibrant mint chutney, sharpened with jalapeño, and creamy raita for cooling down whatever’s hot, like the peppery chickpeas.
The owner stocks several Indian sodas in a cooler, including the popular cola Thums Up, but my quaff of choice is a mango lassi — “so good,” a woman near me said, “I could live on these.”
More BCCs are on their way, says Sheikh. Look for a second (all-day) branch at 500 H St. NE sometime in early February, followed by branches in Rosslyn and Ballston.
The seating at the original location spans tall communal tables and shiny red banquettes dressed up with shimmering pillows. Looking down from the bright and busy walls are portraits of Anthony Bourdain — a hero of Sheikh’s — Gandhi and Kundan Lal Gujral, the late founder of the aforementioned Moti Mahal. If the food doesn’t arouse the senses, the scene certainly will.
818 18th St. NW. 202-331-4175. usabutterchicken.com. Indian meals, $11.
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