My dad celebrated his 60th birthday on Tuesday this week which was the perfect excuse for us to go out for a fabulous dinner. I wanted to take my parents and my grandma somewhere they had never been before, and somewhere they would be "wowed" by. Thanks to me, they have had the chance to experience the DC dining scene over the past few years including everything from the original Galileo to Zaytinya to Posto to Founding Farmers and even the newcomer Acqua Al 2 on Capitol Hill. They love many of these places, but this time I was hoping to introduce them to somewhere unique for the special occasion that would stand out in their minds for months to come. Knowing that my family enjoys Indian food, I settled on Rasika which is the perfect blend of an upscale space for a special occasion and wonderful savory food with excellent flavors. Upon finishing our dinner last night I knew I had picked the right place. Rasika provided the ultimate dining experience that all restaurants should strive to match, and my family was impressed and will definitley be coming back.
We had an 8:15 reservation and we couldn't believe how crowded the restaurant was on a regular Wednesday night. Not only was every table full, but the bar was packed, and the people just kept coming in. What a testament to Rasika to have such loyal patrons (especially because the location is not on a main street with lots of foot traffic). My grandma even turned to me and said "with such a bad economy you'd never know by the looks of this place." She's right, Rasika was looking as hot and chic as it did back in 2005 when it opened. This was a great sign before we even had the chance to order our food. The restaurant had listened closely when I asked for a private table, and they seated us in the corner of the restaurant which was a quieter space that was closed off nicely to allow for easy conversation.
We started the meal with regular naan and onion and sage naan, the Palak Chaat which is Rasika's most well known dish of crispy spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney, and also the Ragda Patties which are made with spiced potato, chickpeas, tamarind date, and a mint chutney. The appetizers were perfect- aromatic, sweet and crispy from the spinach, and deep Indian spiced flavors from the Ragda Patties to make a well-rounded first taste.
For our main course we all ordered the Tandoori Chicken Tikka which is rubbed with chili and garlic and served with garam masala and mint chutney. We also ordered basmati rice and the lemon cashew rice for the table to complement our entrees. The chicken might seem like a simple thing to order, but the flavors are not simple at all. It is the best cooked chicken around, and has a light spicy kick and tastes wonderful with squeezed lemon and dipped in the masala sauce. There was not one thing left on any of our plates. In addition to the chicken and rice, the classy staff at Rasika sent out Chef Vikram Sunderam to our table, who surprised us with three vegetable side dishes on the house to pair with our main courses. I have to say that these vegetables helped to make the meal. Each one was outstanding, and the different sauces were filled with character and depth. The chestnut fava bean korma was my favorite and it included cashew nuts, guava, and cardamom. Hard to explain how tasty this was, but it was buttery and warm and perfect with the chicken. We also had the chance to try the seasonal vegetables with lentils and the eggplant with curry leaves and tamarind which were both wonderful surprise additions to the meal.
Finally, it was time for dessert. Before we had a chance to even look at the menu our waiter brought out the date and toffee pudding with berries with a candle for my Dad's birthday. The cake was so moist and delicious that we all spooned out as much as we could until there was nothing left. I have to say this was the best meal I have had in a long time. I have eaten at Rasika many times before and have always loved the food, but this meal exceeded all expectations. Rasika is a well-run classy restaurant that treated us like gold and made this a meal to remember. I can't wait to go back... and hopefully soon.
Penn Quarter: 633 D Street NW
West End: 1190 New Hampshire Ave, NW