People often ask me “what’s your favorite restaurant?” For months I’ve been saying that my top three are Rasika, Volt, and Central. However, I was starting to feel like somewhat of a fraud. You see while I’ve been to Rasika a few times, I haven’t been in about two years. How can you claim something to be your favorite when it has been that long? You can’t.
So when two friends recently talked about dining at Rasika, I jumped on board. Rasika is ranked #9 on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants 2011. Still, I am a little anxious about the food and the experience living up to my expectations and memories of previous visits.
One of my friends warns that she is not a fan of Indian cuisine and doesn’t particularly like spicy food. I’m a little concerned. I think she may be in the wrong place. But she is up for the adventure and from the moment we are seated, all three of us become more and more ecstatic about what we are eating.
If you know anything about Rasika, you know about the palak chat, which is crispy spinach with sweet yogurt, tamarind and chutney. This may be one of my favorite dishes ever. It is crunchy and sweet and despite the fact that this is spinach, it’s like eatingcandy. We are sad when it’s gone but we know that there are many more great flavors to come.
We also enjoy Tawa Baingan, which is eggplant and spiced potato in a peanut sauce. The presentation is beautiful and it works nicely with our order of goat cheese kulcha.
Entree time! We choose our dishes quickly and easily. Black cod with star anise, honey and dill. Tandoori lamb chops with cardamom, cashew, and ginger. Then because we are afraid we might miss out on something good, we add a mango shrimp with yogurt and mint chutney.
We each are served a plate of food with the cod and lamb already plated with the addition of some fresh greens in a light dressing. The words that follow come fast and furious and I am not exactly sure which dish they apply to or that it matters. “Layers of flavor.” “Bursts of taste.” “Dreamy.” “Unlike anything I’ve tasted before.” “Aromatic, perfumed.”
My friend who doesn’t like Indian or spicy food is leading the charge in our exultation’s. She saves a morsel of the cod to bring home to her husband so he can share in our delight. She is a much better wife than I am. I am not leaving a bite of food on my plate, much less bringing anything home to share. I will happily bring my husband back for a meal here, however. I am not entirely thoughtless.
We end our meal with masala chai creme brulee. It is not too sweet with just the right amount of crunch on the outside and creaminess on the inside. A perfect end to a perfect meal.
The Washington Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema states in his Fall 2010 Dining Guide: “I keep waiting for Rasika to disappoint me… There’s nothing on the chef’s menu that I wouldn’t relish eating again.”
I’m with Tom. I prepared myself for a letdown but it didn’t happen. Rasika is my dream restaurant. I can’t think of anywhere else where I delight in every bite of food as much as I do here.
Rasika is a tough reservation to get. I’ve had more than one person tell me that they have encountered snarky staff when they have called for a reservation a week or so out. A kind of “what are you kidding?” attitude. Therefore, Rasika-lovers rejoiced recently when owner Ashok Baja announced that a lease has been signed for Rasika West in DC’s West End to open in February 2012. Woo Hoo!
I wonder how many times a year I need to dine somewhere to legitimately call it my favorite. Are there rules for that? I don’t know, but just to be safe I’m heading back to Rasika very soon.
Rasika, 633 D Street, NW
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 5
Zagat rating: 28