This restaurant is in Tom Sietsema’s inaugural Hall of Fame.
Take it from someone who knows: If there’s any joy in jury duty, it’s the chance to take a break at Rasika. You’ll never be bored by the menu, for the simple reason that Vikram Sunderam, the James Beard Award-winning chef, never stops adding to his rich repertoire. Consider a visit last month, when a server pointed out a half-dozen fresh reasons to be grateful for the modern Indian standard-bearer, some of them meatless, all of them marvelous. From the griddle came lightly breaded paneer, stuffed with minced cabbage and green beans and colorful with garnishes of julienned bell peppers and scallions. (A dollop of chile sauce with chopped garlic was just the right torch.) Down the hatch went a hot pot, too: soft-cooked eggplant, carrots and plantains swirled with coconut, cilantro and green chiles in a copper bowl, a dish associated with the state of Gujarat in western India and a delicious geography lesson. Not that the kitchen doesn’t excel at tradition, exhibited by creamy, tomatoey chicken tikka masala (look for the recipe on Page 177 of the cookbook “Rasika: Flavors of India”), and excellent breads, foremost the minted paratha. Rasika West End is younger and flashier. But the original restaurant, dressed with a chef’s counter facing a wall of spices and a red-tipped glass “curtain” separating handsome bar from sedate dining room, has my heart.
Rasika: 633 D St. NW. 202-637-1222. rasikarestaurant.com.
Open: Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Sunday.
Prices: Mains $19-$32.
Sound check: 75 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2017 Fall Dining Guide.
Nobody glorifies the cooking of India like Rasika
“Eleven-thirty or 2 p.m.?” I hear a host offer available time slots on the phone — in August. Regulars know to book well in advance for a shot at the cooking of Vikram Sunderam, a James Beard Award winner for his magical way with my favorite cuisine. From the tawa, or griddle, come plump scallops on pools of tamarind-tinted, chile-warmed sauce, and from the tandoor, or clay oven, emerge lamb chops flavorful from a marinade of yogurt, ginger, garlic — an Indian spice cabinet, really. The best new dish on the menu, idiyappam, a staple in Kerala, is meatless: see-through nests of rice flour noodles and minced vegetables rendered glorious with a pour-over of coconut sauce sparked with curry leaves. Every bit as indulgent as the food in the jewel-toned dining room is the service. “Would you come to my house?” a tourist next to me jests (I think) to her solicitous waiter. There’s hope if you want
in on the pleasure but haven’t reserved a spot: The lounge is
first come, first served.
The following review appeared as No. 9 on Tom’s Top 10 restauramts in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide
Hard as I try, I can’t find an Indian restaurant in the country better than this one. A national treasure, Vikram Sunderam is a chef who never rests on his laurels and constantly refreshes his menu. Calling to me these days are roasted cumin-spiked corn cakes set on a brilliant red onion puree; Dover sole slathered in cilantro, mint and coconut and cooked in a banana leaf on the tawa (griddle); and ruddy chunks of lamb cloaked in a sauce that’s warm with cloves and hot with chilies. But even the chef’s oldies — crispy baby spinach (palak chaat), mango tart — remain goodies. Flattering the food are a gem-colored dining room and attention that bridges Secret Service watchfulness with Miss Manners’s decorum. The rare four-star establishment open for lunch as well as dinner, and offering a pre-theater menu for $35, Rasika will be even more accessible come next fall. That’s when Sunderam plans to share some of his secrets, in the form of a cookbook. I, for one, can’t wait to repeat some of Rasika’s magic tricks at home.