When asked which restaurant in DC generally pleases everyone, the first ones that cross my mind are Zaytinya, Estadio, and Rasika. So when my friend, Chris, said he wanted to have Indian for his birthday, I knew I had to take him to Rasika. Somehow he had never been before! Shocking, I know.
Rasika has been hailed as one of the best restaurants in DC time and time again since its inception in December 2005. In fact, Chef Vikram Sunderam was recently awarded the coveted 2014 James Beard award for best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region and for good reason.
When I logged on to Open Table to make a reservation just two weeks in advance, I knew I was in trouble as there was almost nothing available on Open Table. I reluctantly booked the 5:00 p.m. reservation hoping to find something else in the meantime. But, alas, I did not. So, we headed over at 5 p.m. on a Saturday.
When we arrived, there were already people dining in the lounge, which accepts walk-in guests. We headed to the restroom to start. When I came out, I lingered about for a moment wondering if Chris had already come out or not. In the minutes that I stood there, several staff assured me he had not come out yet so I headed back to the front of the restaurant. I then inquired as to how to get a 7 p.m. reservation there. They said that they were completely booked for the next month and the next 7 p.m. was more than two months out. Wow. Tip: you really need to book early to get into Rasika!
They sat us at a large round table right next to the door that was outside of either dining room. It was like its own special table and we loved it. When Chris got back he remarked that when he left the restroom, the servers informed him that I had already left and he wondered how they kept track of both of us! I found it humorous, but it was also a sign of great service.
Our server, Ahmed, who had been with the restaurant group for nearly 20 years, was excellent. He immediately asked who was vegan as he had read the notes in the reservation and was ready to present the options. We decided to go with the four-course tasting menu, which, as you will see, turned out to be many more than four courses. And we did the wine pairing as well.
The restaurant itself is beautiful with its light brown tables, dark lighting, jeweled accents, and gorgeous wine cellar. The staff are all dressed quite elegantly as well.
Our first course was their famous Palak Chaat, which just happens to be the first course for the meat-based four-course as well. It is typically served with a yogurt, which they omitted for me. This meal is like a party in your mouth as its flavors just light up the palate. The flash-fried baby spinach is crispy and is complemented with chickpea flour, tamarind, and date chutney. It's like crispy, sweet, and savory all in one. It was served with a Vermouth de Chambery.
Next, we received a gift from the chef -- fried cauliflower with curry leaf. So delicious.
For the second course, one of my favorites, I was served Ragda Patties, which were amazingly simple yet complex. This soft potato patty was covered with several sauces including a chickpea sauce and mint chutney, and tamarind date chutney, and garnished with red onion. It was spectacular.
Chris was served Tawa Baingan, which was also vegan. It is a grilled eggplant with spiced potato patties piled high and served with peanut sauce. This one was okay, but definitely one of our least favorite items. With this course, we had a Felton Road Riesling from New Zealand (2013).
For the third course, we were served many items family-style. Since the Dal Makhani is made with cream and the Dum Ki Subzi is made with butter, I was served three other dishes. My favorite was a dish that had eggplant and potato in a red tomato sauce. It was bursting with flavor.
There was also the Wild Mushroom Korma, which had loads of shiitake and oyster mushrooms in a coconut milk curry sauce with curry leaves.
And a classic dish of Gobhi Mattar -- cauliflower and peas sauteed in cumin and ginger. So good and so classic. With this course, we had a very nice, round Pinot Noir from New Zealand -- Carrick "Bannockburn" (2011). They served fresh whole wheat Roti with it was well.
I was definitely full by the "fourth" course, which was really like the seventh course, so I was somewhat happy that all they had for me was some sorbet. There was a lot of fruitiness to these scoops with strawberry being my favorite. Other flavors included cilantro passion fruit and cardamom. The dessert wine was fantastic as well.
I was pleased to see that they knew it was Chris' birthday and brought his cake with a candle. He was pleasantly surprised.
So, all in all, it was a lot of food. Many of the dishes were very good, but what was surprising is how many of the dishes I recognized from previous visits. Fine restaurants typically change their menus often so I was hoping to be blown away with some new items. The Ragda Patties were definitely my favorite, but the other dishes left me wondering if the four-course would be any different if I returned a year later. The service was really incredible as our server kept a good eye on us, however, after the third course, it did take a while for the table to be cleared. Perhaps, though, they were unsure as to whether we had finished. And the prices were quite reasonable for what we received with the four-course being $50 per person and the wine pairing an additional $37. I also like that the veg option is less than the meat option, as it should be. All in all, it was a good experience with a solid menu. I will always keep this place in my back pocket as a place to go for consistently good food and service that seems to please everyone.
October 24, 2012
July 20, 2011
633 D Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004