Monday, December 14, 2009

Lofty Expectations, Great Experience: Rasika

I vaguely remember having a conversation with a colleague two years ago about what a wonderful restaurant Rasika is, and how they really transform Indian food into something transcendent. It slipped my mind until October, when Tom Sietsema in the Post's Fall Dining Guide elevated Rasika to a 4 star ranking, putting it--somewhat surprisingly--in the company of Restaurant Eve's Tasting Room, Komi, and the Inn at Little Washington. So on Friday night, I was finally able to see if Rasika would live up to the hype.

I have no good reason for this delay. Rasika is relatively affordable, especially when compared to the other restaurants in the four star category. While you do need to make a reservation about 3 weeks out, there is really no excuse as to why it took us so long to try. But now that we have, we will be back--many times I am sure.


After a frenetic Friday afternoon at work, I ventured out into a quite frigid night for this time of the year, arriving at Rasika tired, cold, and ready to start the weekend. The inside of the restaurant is a warm space, with light caramel woodwork, and is divided into a dining and a bar area, with an open kitchen in back.

I was greeted by a distracted hostess. And me being me, I began to immediately question whether Rasika was going to live up to my lofty expectations. She was a bit frazzled but within five minutes I was seated.

B and I were quickly greeted by our gregarious waitress, who took our drink orders. Again, the night was off to slight hitch, as the waitress mistakenly told me my cocktail was made with tequila instead of rum and could not remember that B ordered his martini with olives verses a twist and brought out both to be sure. I know this sounds incredibly picky, but a 4 star restaurant should not have these glitches. However, the waitress handled it well joking that we were her first table of the night and from there the night was flawless.

My cocktail was some sort of apple-fennel 'smash.' One sip and I knew the weekend had begun. It was refreshing with a slight kick. Though the gin and tonic was in fact invented in India's capital during colonial times, B opted instead for a martini with Bombay gin.

The waitress asked whether 1) this was our first time dining at Rasika and 2)if we needed to leave at a certain time to catch a show. The answer being yes to both, she went over the menu in great detail; as she was going over the menu, she noted that the best appetizer was their fried baby spinach and that while not on the pre-theatre menu, she would gladly substitute it. We were thrilled with this as we had heard great things about this appetizer. This also caught the attention of the table behind us who were being helped by a different server and had already ordered. Our waitress told them not to worry and was able to talk to the kitchen and switch their order as well. She really went out of her way to make their meal and ours a great experience.

We decided to share all our courses, starting with the fried spinach...

...and the clams caldine.

The spinach was simply amazing and I am at a loss of words in describing it -- very lightly battered and friend with phenomenal Indian spices. The clams were succulent and juicy in a flavorful broth studded with sauteed onions.

We ordered Kingfisher beers to pair with our entrees and this time shared a lamb and a chicken dish which wer served with white rice and two kinds of naan. You will note from the picture that I could not wait to try this and sampled the dishes before I remembered to take the picture.

Rasika really does elevate Indian food into something extraordinary. The chicken was tender--like butter--and served in a rich and creamy sauce, which was the best I've ever tasted. The lamb was also incredible, served in a spicier but equally indulgent sauce. This was so good, that we ate way more than we should have and ordered a third--oink, oink--round of naan to soak up the sauce. The beer was a good choice to cut the richness and spice of these dishes.

For dessert we both opted for frozen options, I got a taste, which equated to three huge scoops of sorbet: cherry peppercorn, star anise, and another flavor which I cannot recall. I was so full, but tried them all. The cherry peppercorn was the best of the three--sweet and complex.

B had the cardamon ice cream which he really enjoyed -- rich and complex.

I can't wait to go back. Though next time I would order off the standard menu, skip the dessert, and pace myself on the entrees. All issues with the eater and not the restaurant!

The total with tax and tip, two cocktails, two beers, and the pre-theatre menu for two was $125.

Rasika on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. We took your suggestions and ordered from the standard menu. Thanks for the heads up! We tried both the palak chaat and clams caldine: phenomenal. Probably the best Indian food in the DC metro area. Try the ginger champagne cocktail: it was so refreshing and the candied ginger at the bottom of the glass was a nice touch.