Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shelter from the Storm

The skies opened as I was on my way to Penn Quarter to make my 9.15 reservation last Saturday. I've had enough of the rain by now, but at least the downpour could pass as a monsoon, which went very well with our restaurant selection, Rasika.

Tucked away on D street by the Woolly Mammoth Theater, Rasika puts a trendy spin on Indian fare without putting it through the full-on fusion treatment. The space is dominated by clean lines and light wood. Nothing is guild and the centerpiece is a large white and red crystal beaded curtain that separates the bar from the dining room. Our server was polite (she even provided extra napkins as we came in, wet just from stepping out of the cab), checked on us regularly, and was happy to recommend cocktails and wine pairings. M. had a glass pinot grigio, L. went for Indian beer, and I had a cocktail made from sparkling pinot noir juice and vodka. The cocktail came with an orchid as garnish, which I put aside. L. had just been to Peru and she insisted that the orchid was edible, and that restaurants in Lima serve them with a butter sauce, as you would with steamed artichokes. My skepticism faded when she took a petal and ate it herself. It was L.'s first time trying Indian food and we wanted to set a good example. The flavor was nothing special but the texture was similar to fresh Bibb lettuce.

For an appetizer we tried the Palak Chaat. This was my second time at Rasika and understand why people rave about this flash-fried spinach, which I've only seen on this menu in DC. Combined with yogurt, date chutney and tamarind, it is a combination of earthy flavors, enhanced by the way in which the spinach literally melts in your mouth. I have not tried their other appetizers and probably will not until the sad day when they take the Palak Chaat off the menu.

For second course, we ordered a bread basket with their most popular breads - onion and sage, classic naan, and garlic naan. M., who doesn't have many Indian options back home, stuck to a classic Chicken Masala, a green version with mint, corianded and ground spices. The chicken was well prepared and the sauce good enough to eat on its own. L. and I both ordered the Lamb Pista Korma, stewed lamb in a sauce made from pistachios, cashew nuts, mace and cardamom. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices and I love how it pairs well with both the sweet and the savory. While the pistachio certainly dominated the dish, it was not overpowering. The lamb was lean and easy to cut into with just a fork.

We were pretty full by the time dessert menus appeared, but we decided to split the Chocolate Somosa. This is more crafty marketing than an actual somosa, but the flaky pastry encasing thick chocolate did have the familiar triangular shape. I'd be interested to try some of their other desserts, but to in order to do that I might have to make a meal out of several Chaat an bypass the entrées. Though the restaurant had a lot of patrons, even in the summer storm, we were not rushed and allowed to enjoy the food and the company. Rasika is a marvelous place to wander and wonder.

633 D St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 637-1222
Rasika on Urbanspoon

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