Rasika and Rasika West End: Palak chaat-ting

When asked about my favorite restaurant in DC, I never hesitate to say Rasika.  But when I realize I haven’t dined there in over a year, it’s time to rectify the situation.   The good news is that the incredibly popular Rasika now has a sibling, Rasika West End.  So, in the course of a two week period, I have the very good fortune to dine at both locations.

First up is Rasika West End.  It’s a typical younger sibling….not quite as experienced and not as sophisticated.  But it’s definitely more hip and maybe even a little more interesting in terms of the vibe.  You can’t help but smile at the 20-foot-long, 700-pound sculpture of a hand, which is installed as a gesture of welcome.

Rasika West End has inherited some of the best traits of its more mature relative. I’m dining with three girlfriends, and we are elated to find our favorite palak chaat- the crispy spinach with sweet yogurt tamarind and date chutney- on the West End menu.

Rasika Palak Chaat

Two of my friends aren’t feeling well, and so they skip cocktails in favor of food.  Not everyone would shlep from the suburbs to a restaurant downtown when they aren’t feeling their best. They admit that had our plans been for a different restaurant, the outcome would have been different.  Rasika has that affect on people.

We approach our meal by focusing on small plates and shared entrees.  The more we can taste at this new location, the better. Gobhi Mattar, a blend of cauliflower with green peas, cumin, and ginger is a nice follow up to the palak chaat, with some equally strong and satisfying flavors.

Rasika West End Gobhi Mattar

We adore Tawa Baingan, an eggplant dish with spiced potato and peanut sauce.  It may not be pretty, but the smoky flavor is great.

I am eager to try dori kebab, smoked lamb sausage with rose and saffron.  An early review by Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post mentions it, and I find the description intriguing.  It’s not much to look at (and isn’t pictured) but the smoky ground lamb with a floral finish is worth trying.

One of our favorite dishes of the night leave us feeling all tingly– alleppey shrimp curry with coconut, raw mango, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves.


Rasika West End alleppey shrimp curry

We aren’t as enamored of honey chili tuna with chili flakes and mango salsa.  It sounds like it has more flavor than it does.  The evening deteriorates at the end a bit, when our server seems to forget us and we have a much-too-long wait for tea.  But this is something that I expect will be ironed out as Rasika West End matures.

Two weeks later my husband and I dine at the original Rasika in Penn Quarter with friends who hold the restaurant in the same high esteem that we do.  Chef S. and his wife aren’t frequent dining companions, but they are among my favorite.  For one thing Chef S. has a knowledge of food that far exceeds mine, and his excitement about food fuels my own.

I’ve worked myself up into a frenzy about dining at Rasika, so initially I’m not sure what to order.  In the meantime, wife of Chef S. suggests that we have two orders of palak chaat to start.  This simple suggestion thrills me.  I don’t have to linger over a few small bites of my favorite dish, longing for more. This is going to be one of those dinners where over-ordering doesn’t come into play.  There is no such thing.

Along with our palak chaat, we enjoy cauliflower bezule with mustard seeds,  green chilies, curry leaves, and lemon juice. This zesty dish delights us. Chef S. says it’s so tasty “it’s like eating candy.”

Rasika Cauliflower Bezule

We have truffle naan and chutney with our starters.  I love how the truffle flavor is subtle at first and then becomes more prominent. We follow up with chili naan to accompany our meal.

Rasika Chili Naan

We are doing our own thing when it comes to entrees.  I have decided to skip any pretense of being adventurous and order tandoori lamb chops.  I have shared this dish on previous visits, and am happy to have it all to myself this time.  Should I be ashamed to say I ate most of my entree with no trouble, despite how much I have already devoured?  I will own my gluttony.  The dish is too delicious to resist.

Rasika Tandoori Lamb Chops

My husband has another Rasika signature dish, black cod with fresh dill, honey, star anise, and red wine vinegar.  He likens the dish to a “pillow-y cloud of goodness.”  I am not sure what this means, but he is delighted with the fish and that’s all that matters.

Rasika Black Cod

Wife of Chef S. has mixed grill with Tandoori salmon, Lasooni Tikka (chicken chunks) and Seekh Kebab (minced lamb).  Every morsel is cooked to perfection.

Rasika Mixed Grill

Chef S. has Fish Rechad, which is red snapper with Peri-Peri masala and shrimp balchao. He describes the fish as very fresh and flaky with a spicy Indian version of piri piri. The basmati helps cut the heat.

Rasika Fish Rechad

For dessert we have an apple beignet with cardamom ice cream and coconut jaggery creme caramel.  The finesse in the desserts are consistent with the rest of the food we’ve consumed.

Rasika Coconut Jaggery Creme Caramel

There are not many restaurants where you can have a meal that is a wow all the way through, with every bite as exciting as the one before it. Rasika is one of those restaurants. While the Penn Quarter location is ahead when it comes to attention to detail and a perfect flow, both locations share a strong family resemblance.
Before our dinner, wife of Chef S. and I are texting to confirm our plans. I say that I am looking forward to our get together because we have lots of palak chaat-ting to do.  I amuse myself with my pun.  I don’t think there’s a better way to share an evening with friends.  My advice, however…don’t share your palak chaat.



  1. Lunched last week. Could have eaten four orders of Palak Chaat. Now I see what the Rasika rage was all about.

  2. After having read all the 5-star ratings I was really excited and stopped by on a Thursday evening. I was visiting DC and looking forward to something original. Upon arrival 10-minutes before 5PM the hostess indicated they would not be seating till 5PM and escorted us to the bar. This was fine as I was with a friend and decided to check out their bar menu. The service at the bar was great along with few interesting and unique cocktails.
    At 5PM the hostess escorted us to a near by table located within the bar area (front of the restaurant) We were quickly given menus and greeted by our server. We were still enjoying our drinks and looking over the menu. One thing which we could just not overlook was the seating arrangement and the tiny table. This could not be right, the table they sat us on could not even fit two proper plates let allow dishes and servings. We ordered up some food and asked the server to get us seated in a proper dinning area which was initially requested upon arrival to Rasika. Few minutes later the server returns with our food fully crowding the tiny table with more to come! I requested we move immediately as this would just not work. Apparently ‘management’ stepped in and stated that they were booked and no seats were available in the dinning hall. Well WTF I thought as the table we were seated at could not have been larger than a toilet seat cover. Seemed very deceitful way to do business. We decided to finish up our appetizers before leaving this place since having a proper dinner was out of the question. Nor did we want to indulge in a place with such poor management qualities. The food was subpar to say the least. Although the menu looks great, flavors were a BIG miss. Nothing original as I had initial anticipated. Only item which tasted interesting were the popcorns given to us at the bar.
    I would not recommend this resturant which A) Nothing original here in terms of food and its flavours + presentation B)Poor, poor, poor management

    • Vick- sorry that you had such a negative experience. It’s not the usual for Rasika. Sounds like they tried to squeeze you in but would have been better to turn you away.

    • I have been seated in the lounge before and found the tables to be more than adequate in size. It is necessary to make a reservation, as has been stated in several reviews, but the lounge tables are a nice option if you didn’t plan ahead. The service has always been wonderful when I have been there, but I would never expect them to push out a reservation for me.


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