Feb 2, 2013

Tactical (Restaurant) Review: Rasika

This is my first ever tactical review of a dining experience and it's been a long time coming. It's been something I've considered dabbling in for the last few years and for many a reason. I've experienced many a fine dining restaurant and local hole in the wall in my travels around the country. All the while, my culinary vocabulary has expanded as I've been sharpening my blade in the kitchen(s) recreating the delectable inspirations I've been exposed to. With the understanding of what it takes to reach for service excellence (15+ years in the luxury hospitality industry), a growing understanding of the vast array of exciting cuisines while bringing my tactical assessment skills to the table (with a healthy dose of encouragement from my wife), I bring you my very first restaurant review...

Rasika, the fine dining Indian restaurant near the Chinatown area in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., redefines the modern American’s idea of tasty Indian food. Lead by the unique culinary vision of head chef Vikram Sunderam, this foodie stop is a must for anyone that even considers driving near any monument or museum.

From the clean lines, understated minimalism and it’s clever use of color, the atmosphere sets the tone for what is to come. As I do in any Indian restaurant that I visit, the first thing I order is a tasting of the their Naan and various chutneys. Their serving of chutneys, eggplant ginger, tomato/golden Raisin and spicy mango, were an adventure in their own right.

After some discussion with our server, we decided to go with her recommendation of the restaurant’s most sought after appetizer, Palak Chaat. Crispy spinach flash fried paired with fried chickpea batter, sweet yogurt, tamarind and date chutney (think pico de gallo with minced dates), this was the star of the entire meal. Interesting complex, you’ll find yourself continuing to hit the serving bowl to find another shot of the contrasting textures and flavors. So thought provoking was this dish, my expectations for the rest of the meal exploded exponentially.

As per our usual routine, my wife and I split an entrĂ©e and side dish. Again, under guidance from our server, we had the Black Cod; subtle but freshly herbaceous dill, honey, red wine vinegar, cheddar cheese (yes, cheese), and earthy but heavenly star anise. The fish was cooked to perfection, both soft and supple, with aromas of herb and spice, it was a revelation. And I haven’t even mentioned the expertly prepared basmati rice. For someone that is as rice challenged as I am (meaning, I can cook rice just never to the exact level of doneness that I crave), the rice was divine.

For the side dish, my recent swing towards all thing vegetarian lead me to another recommendation from previous patrons, the Butternut Squash Bharta, lightly smoked butternut squash with onion, tomato and cumin. The theme of earthy spice paired with smoke, acidic tomato and sweet onion, I would have happily filled my belly with this vegetarian delight and called it a night.

Lastly, the dessert course drove us to try both a traditional take on donuts and ice cream and a non-traditional carrot dessert. First up was the apple jalebi (beignet) with cardamom ice cream. I’m the standard apple pie guy (even the addition of cheddar cheese always made me do a double take), so this rendition of apples was a welcome departure. Though a little on the oily side (too oily for my wife), I enjoyed the apple stuffed donut but the cardamom ice cream (delicious) was the real take away.

The second dessert, the carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon, was the only step down for us. I like savory desserts more then most, but this felt more like brunch or breakfast item desperately crying out for sweetness to help balance it out. After a heavily spice Indian meal, a dessert with some sweetness is always craved to round out the experience and this dessert missed the mark.

Overall, Rasika was a revelation, a culinary adventure through wonderfully modern Indian cuisine. My wife having been recently to London, decried this as the best Indian food she’s ever had. I could not concur more. A must stop for anyone visiting the nation’s capitol!

Review date: Feb 2013

4 Alarm Fire. 

Rasika on Urbanspoon

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