Rasika, Penn Quarter, Washington, DC

Bear with me. Most of the places I review are informal, and I feel free to take unobtrusive photos, and to sit there tapping away on my iPhone so I’ll have notes for my review. At formal places, however, I really hate to do things like take notes and photos, that might disturb other diners. I might as well add that I rely on my notes when I get around to writing days or even a couple of weeks after I eat. That’s a long way of saying that there will be gaps in this report.

We — our Guys Monthly Luncheon Group, this time with a special guest, Frank’s brother, Neal, from Pennsylvania — were planning to eat downtown at a place more convenient to group member Willie King, who now lives on the fashionable Southwest Waterfront. We were all set to eat at Oyamel when the James Beard Foundation announced that Oyamel was an award finalist. After that, the reservations clerk collapsed laughing when Frank McAuliffe called for a reservation. Rasika, just around the corner, was the fall-back.

Rasika is formal, certainly in comparison with other places we normally eat, such as the Parthenon and Pete’s. Rasika’s website notes that their “sophisticated ambiance is enhanced by beautiful pieces of art created by well known Indian artists.” So, as I say, bear with me.

We started off with a couple of appetizers, the Palaat Chat, which is crispy breaded spinach mixed with yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney, and topped with diced tomato and red onion ($14),

plus Cauliflower Bezule, twice-cooked cauliflower florets spiced with mustard seeds, green chilies, and curry leaves ($12).

The crusty spinach dish was delicious, with an interesting mix of flavors and textures, and a thread of sweetness from the yoghurt and chutney. The spinach itself was the star of the dish, with its astringent tamed by being breaded, seasoned, and fried. It’s one of their most popular offerings, and for good reason.

I enjoyed the cauliflower even more. In addition to the flavors announced on the menu, it had been tossed with red chili powder or paprika in a thin batter and fried, and then sautéed with the other seasonings. The resulting multiple layers of flavor, notably from the curry leaves and the mere hint of green chili, gave a fascinatingly moderate bite. I loved it.

We also ordered a bread basket with regular naan, onion sage naan, and mint flavored paratha ($12), which I neglected to photograph as some customers in suits and dresses were walking by our table. The regular naan was good, but it was overshadowed by the onion sage version. I am biased in favor of sage, and onion for that matter. I did not particularly care for the mint paratha, and I’m not sure why. The mint should have been a welcome contrast to the decided seasoning of the entrees. Maybe I just rebel against mint in bread. Others seemed to enjoy it.

Bob Berendt ordered the Red Snapper Polichattu ($26), which looked delicious, as indeed Bob said it was.

Those are curry leaves on top, under a sprinkling of parsley. The snapper was mixed in a sauce with some tomato, garlic, and green chili — and are those black mustard seeds? The rice was flavored with lemon and cashew.

I ordered but seem not to have photographed the Goan Shrimp Curry ($26). You’ll have to use your imagination. The curry had a hint of coconut along with more decided Kashmiri chili and tamarind, with some okra blended in. The shrimp were large and very fresh, and the serving was a reasonable size. The dish had a complex and pleasant flavor, but I suffered from snapper envy.

I believe Willie ordered the Halibut Malai Curry ($22).

Isn’t that beautiful? The menu notes that the sauce includes mustard oil and yoghurt, but I know there’s more. The topping is a tomato chutney.

Frank and Neal were sitting across the table and I didn’t attempt to photograph their orders — Chicken Green Masala ($20) with mint, coriander, and ground spices for Frank, and the Tandoori Chicken Tikka ($22) with chili, garlic, garam masala, and a mint chutney for Neal. Like the rest of us, they enjoyed their dishes immensely. The respect Rasika enjoys is well-earned. The seasoning is subtle, actually intriguing, and the food is expertly prepared. Much Indian food, including some of my favorites, is over-spiced and uncomfortable for many people. At Rasika the seasoning is very sophisticated and at the same time more accessible.

As it turned out, the conversation was as good as the food, varied and, if not especially sophisticated, subtly spiced. We had a jolly lunch, and Neal was a fine addition to the group. The food was delicious and the service was highly professional. Rasika is on the pricey side for our lunches, but it’s good to splurge now and again. Rasika definitely is a winner. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


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9 thoughts on “Rasika, Penn Quarter, Washington, DC

  1. Enjoyed Rasika review and pics, JT. Georgia and I always think of Rasika or its sister whenever something special is happening and always enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I should always check your DC posts before going out. I check cities before I travel. I check other cities, but we seem to travel to different cities — Miami vs. Palm Beach, etc. I rally need to get back to Dallas


  3. Rasika East, Rasika West and The Bombay Club are the three main Indian restaurants in Ashok Bajaj’s stable of establishments (plus Bindas in Cleveland Park) and all are excellent. However, for special occasions, we opt for The Bombay Club, which has operated in the same location since 1988 and never fails to excel in service, ambiance and quality.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for your review – I like to read when people agree with me! You cannot go wrong dining at Rasika for lunch or dinner…in addition to the outstanding food, the high level of customer service keeps us coming back.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We ate in the little outdoor tent at Rasika in October. Less elegant, but much quieter. And the food was as great as always. I do prefer Rasika West, which feels more spacious to me. Rasika/Rasika West are definitely in my top ten of DC area restaurants and my favorite Indian restaurants ever.

    Liked by 1 person

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