Ashok Bajaj has several restaurants serving different cuisines in D.C., the majority of which are very successful. But once you eat at Rasika, you can’t help but feel that he does Indian best.
Rasika is a trendy, crowded spot full of D.C. 20 and 30 somethings meeting friends and co-workers for lunch and dinner. In addition to the main dining room is a bar area with seating, as well as a small room for large groups, all of which are usually full. The décor of the restaurant is modern and colorful, decorated with hanging crystals, low lighting, and Indian artwork.
The contemporary atmosphere provides a preview into the menu, which is a culinary adventure, combining traditional Indian flavors [the definition of the word “Rasika”] and cooking styles with Western ingredients. For example, one of the appetizers at Rasika is a chestnut and fava bean tikki. Usually a small patty made of potatoes served with a sweet tamarind sauce, here, Chef Vikram Sunderam creates the concept of a tikki but makes it with unusual flavors and combines it with a sweet green apple sauce instead. Similarly, a popular street snack in India is chaat, made with fried pieces of bread, potatoes, yogurt, and various chutneys. At Rasika, the Chef puts a twist on the traditional chaat by using sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. The Chef uses a number of vegetables not usually seen in Indian cuisine, such as sweet potatoes, artichoke, mushrooms, and asparagus, but manages to incorporate them into traditional Indian dishes and is able to use Indian species to bring out the natural flavor of such ingredients. The chef’s innovations are therefore extremely successful, full of flavor and depth. The chef also serves a number of traditional Indian dishes, such as the Dal Makhni, a rich and creamy lentils dish, and the Malai Palak, a spinach dish made with garlic, ginger, and cumin. He also serves a plethora of Indian breads, a staple of any Indian meal. The different types of Naan, a bread baked in a tandoor which is a clay oven, are especially delicious.
The Chef brings his creativity to dessert as well, and offers a Chocolate Samosa. Normally a snack or appetizer, a Samosa is a pastry filled with savory potatoes and peas. Here, the Samosa is made with puffed pastry and filled with a rich and creamy chocolate filling. The Jalebi, a traditional Indian fried pastry, is enhanced with an orange and cardamom ice cream, which is tastes of both spice and citrus, while still maintaining the sweet and creamy characteristics inherent to ice cream.
Such innovative Indian food does come at a price. Appetizers are around $8, and main courses can go as high as $26. Indian food cannot be enjoyed without a variety of breads and side dishes, so that will add to your bill as well. The wine list is quite good, which along with the lovely décor is unusual for Indian restaurants, so one may also be tempted to order wine.
The restaurant does offer a Pre-Theater 3 course menu for $30. If you really want to indulge, try the Tasting menu. The 4 course Tasting menu is $45 for vegetarians and $52 for non-vegetarians. The optional wine pairing is $35. The 6 course Tasting menu is $60 for vegetarians and $65 for non-vegetarians. Optional wine pairings are $45.
Rasika is too loud and crowded for intimacy, come with a group of friends or family. Remember, you will need a reservation!
Rasika, 633 D Street NW Washington D.C. 20004, 202-637-1112