The Washington Post

Just Asking: Ashok Bajaj, owner of the Oval Room, Rasika and more, talks about power tables

Ashok Bajaj. (Joshua Yospyn/For The Washington Post)
Writer and editor

Ashok Bajaj is the founder of Knightsbridge Restaurant Group and owns many of Washington’s top restaurants, including the Bombay Club, the Oval Room, Rasika, 701 and Ardeo + Bardeo. He moved to Washington in 1988.

So, apparently your age is a secret.

Joe Heim joined The Post in 1999. He is currently a staff writer for the Metro section's Local Enterprise team. He also writes Just Asking, a weekly Q&A column in the Sunday magazine and is the paper's resident Downton Abbey expert. View Archive

Ha-ha. I knew you would ask me this. No, it’s not a secret. I’m in my early 50s. I’m not telling you exactly — 51, 52, 53. When I was younger and opened my first restaurant in London, I wanted to seem older. Now I want to seem younger.

Your restaurants are some of the most praised in Washington. What is it about you that fosters that kind of success?

I think a restaurant is like a human being, and I treat them like that. I constantly stay focused on them. These are my pride and joy, and I enjoy them. There is an expectation from Washingtonians, and I like to meet those expectations.

What makes a power table a power table?

It depends on one’s definition. A power table for you and me would be two different tables. Some people want to be seen, and others just want a secluded table. But definitely not by the bathroom or kitchen.

What if you have two people who want the same power table?

It happens a lot. So what we do, whoever comes in first we give the first table. And then, if someone arrives later, they get the second power table. Ha-ha-ha.

You deal with a lot of big shots. Who of those was the most humble?

All big shots are humble. Why? Because they know when they walk in a place they’re going to be looked after. It’s very simple. But one? Nelson Mandela came in. The nicest man you’d ever meet. He had a very calm personality.

What can other restaurateurs around town learn from you?

Every restaurateur or chef, they all have special qualities. What can they learn from me? I don’t know if I can teach them anything. I have a lot I can learn from these young guys myself. But what I tell people is to stay focused. There’s an old saying that a restaurant is only as good as the last meal you served. So, it’s a constant challenge.

Have you failed at anything in your life?

I’m sure I’ve failed at many things in my life. But, restaurant-wise, no. Maybe some have been more successful than others, some have taken off faster than others.

Do you have time for anything other than restaurants?

Restaurants are a lifestyle, so I spend a lot of time in them. But outside the restaurant I read, and I’d love to learn to paint. And I love to travel.

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened in one of your restaurants?

When you turn off that recorder, I will tell you.

More Just Asking

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