Friend: What’s the best restaurant in DC?
Me: (no hesitation) Rasika.
Friend: But I don’t like Indian food.
Me: (Sigh) It’s modern Indian, like continental with an Indian twist.
I guess people think schlocky faux Indian, and they stop listening. But Rasika is the best of Indian flavors, subtle spices and textured sauces, with amazing ingredients, unusual wines (that complement the food – how unusual is that for Indian food?!?) and terrific service. We hadn’t been in a few months – partly because it books so far in advance these days – but when we went on Monday, it was as fabulous as ever. Which means it was superb and unmatched as a dining experience in this city.
We’re spoiled – I admit it. We had been semi-regulars at Rasika for a while, and even though it had been a few months, we were greeted by Atul, the manager, who recognized us. Then we were greeted by Haq, our favorite waiter. My motto at Rasika: In Haq we trust.
We decided to forego our favorite appetizers and branch out. A great decision. The sauteed calamari with ginger and chili was tender and flavorful. The minced ginger sauce was hot and spicy, without being overwhelming – why does ginger never taste this way when I use it? I pondered as I scraped up the sauce with my naan.
Then Haq came by to apologize. They were out of the sweetbread appetizer. The chef gets it fresh every day, and when he runs out – 5 or 6 servings – he runs out. Alas. What should we get? Haq asked if we were looking for meat? fish? We left it to him – after all, in Haq we trust. He came back with a black bass in mint sauce, wrapped in banana leaf. Amazing. Who knew mint could taste so tangy, and that fish could so perfectly soak up the flavors?
Although Paul, the fabulous sommelier was off on Monday, Haq brought us a South African red, a Stellenbosch. You’ll like this, he said, merlot, cabernet, sangiovese blend, medium bodied, good with the food. Sure – Haq hasn’t steered us wrong yet. Although a tiny part of me missed Paul, who would have brought a Uruguayan red (which he did once) or maybe a Ukrainian wine (I just made that up), and it would have made the food sing.
For dinner, I went with a classic. It’s hard to pass up chicken green masala, especially since I hadn’t had it in what seemed like forever.
G, meanwhile, chose the duck, which came in a spicy red sauce. The old lobster sauce, he informed me. Of course.
We were beyond full, but soaked up every last bit of wonderfulness with our rice and naan. My mouth was burning from the sauce, but in such a pleasant, tingly way.
Any dessert? Ah, dessert at an ethnic restaurant – danger! Except that Haq said he would bring something special. Indian ice cream made from condensed milk and pistaccio. I’m naturally skeptical, but the pale creamish-terra cotta vaguely banana shaped frozen confection was delicious. Creamy, not too sweet, with nutty bits of pistaccio and sauce. Yummy!
Why do we ever eat anywhere else? I’m not sure.
I’m already planning my next Rasika dinner … and the one after that as well.