This restaurant is in Tom Sietsema’s Hall of Fame.
Rasika West End
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: No journey fascinates me more than India. In a nutshell, that explains my unabashed affection for the cooking at these crosstown siblings from veteran restaurateur Ashok Bajaj. While the restaurant scene has gained from more Indian competitors of late, no chef has surpassed Vikram Sunderam’s finesse or flavors. Rasika in Penn Quarter is the senior of the two, dressed in sheer curtains and featuring a chef’s counter backed by a wall of spices. New to the lineup: floppy-crisp dosa filled with shredded goat, diced beets with fresh coconut and curry leaves, and turmeric-kissed scallops brightened with a light lemon sauce. Rasika West End, where diners eat under a faux tree and Sunday brunch gets served, is the hipper of the two. Pulling me in this season are a soft duck pâté with foie gras, peppery shrimp curry, and paneer stuffed with crushed nuts and served with a thick cloak of yogurt and spices. (But eggy French toast with minced chicken? I’ll pass.) The breads at both rank among the best around; the same can be said of the service.
Rasika West End: 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW. 202-466-2500. rasikarestaurant.com/westend.
Open: Dinner daily, lunch weekdays, brunch Sundays.
Price: Mains $14-$36.
Sound check: 76 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2017 Fall Dining Guide.
Rasika West End: The second location of the Indian favorite is a looker
If you want spectacle with your modern Indian food, the West End offshoot of the Penn Quarter original delivers in spades. Diners might graze under the canopy of an angular “tree,” inside a teal booth in the shape of a carriage or to the side of the underground kitchen, which has a round table for seven. (Icebreaker: President Barack Obama celebrated two birthdays there.) Equally enchanting is the food: My last meal was a tease of beetroot patties with cores of molten goat cheese and meaty red snapper, bedded on turmeric-colored vermicelli and finished with coconut milk fueled with fennel, onion cloves and ... can they bottle this stuff for purchase? Like its more formal sibling, Rasika West End does just as well by vegetarians as meat eaters, while also endearing itself to the Sunday brunch crowd with the likes of coconut jaggery pancakes.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide.
It would have been easy for the owner and the chef behind this sibling of the revered Rasika to open a mirror image of the original. Instead, Ashok Bajaj and Vikram Sunderam came up with a novel script, enticing India-philes with turquoise booths that look like wedding carriages, private seating in the downstairs kitchen and some of the best reasons to get out of bed on Sunday morning: fluffy steamed lentil cakes on a stripe of mint cilantro chutney, pressed rice threaded with sweet crab and mustard seeds, and coconut jaggery pancakes. Meanwhile, lunch finds me hoovering up super-moist, gently tingling chicken tikka with the help of olive naan. Anywhere else, this breezy establishment would be the top Indian restaurant in town, never mind one day’s chewy lamb curry or a constantly interrupting server. Compared to the pitch-perfect Rasika right now, the spinoff is a great second choice for vegetable biryani.