633 D St NW, Washington DC, 620004, United States

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Rasika, meaning “flavour” in Sanskrit, opened in December 2009, the second restaurant of Ashok Bajaj, who had formerly opened Bombay Club near the White House way back in 1987 Mr Bajaj had been the manager of Bombay Brasserie in London from its opening in 1983, having previously trained with Taj Group hotels in India. His head chef Vikram Sunderam was at Bombay Club since late 2005, and is now executive chef of the parent Knightsbridge restaurant group which includes Rasika. Mr Sunderam originally trained with Taj hotels and was head chef of Bombay Brasserie for eight years. Rasika seats up to a hundred diners at any one time, with a bar counter as well as a few seats alongside the semi-open kitchen in addition to the tables in the main dining room.

The menu is fairly classical North Indian, though with some nods to local tastes with, for example, a dish using black cod, which you would not see in India, and a palak chaat (spinach with a yoghurt sauce). This was a dish that bombed at The Bombay Brasserie in London but is a signature dish at Rasika. I tried ragda pattice, a Gujarati street food dish with a potato pattie, chickpeas, and a date, mint and tamarind chutney. I liked the countenance, which had plenty of sweet tamarind flavour, and the central Pattie was nicely cooked. I was less taken by the chickpeas, which had little texture and seemed to me just too soggy compared to other versions of this dish that I have eaten (12/20). 

The main course moved things up a gear with chicken biryani, which was served with its pastry seal, which is then cut open at the table. This is more than just theatre, as when the pastry is cut the aromas of the dish are released. I am always surprised when biryani is not served this way, as it seems such an evidently attractive way to serve it. The rice here was fragrant, the meat avoiding dryness, the gentle spices lifting the flavour of the chicken. This was excellent biryani (easily 14/20). As a side dish I had gobi mattur, a combination of peas and cauliflower that are tossed in a pan. For me this dish could have done with more spice, thought the texture of the cauliflower was good (13/20). A naan bread was pleasant, quite soft and supple, though if it been right out the oven it would have been even better (13/20).

My bill came to £42 with beer to drink. Service was very good, my waitress being attentive and helpful. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Rasika, as I have struggled to find good Indian food in the USA. I can remember a comically bad meal at Tabla in New York, the only restaurant that talented restaurateur Danny Meyer has ever closed, and other Indian places that I have tried over the years in the USA have barely been better (I'm looking at you, Campton Place). Rasika is a proper Indian restaurant that would do perfectly well even in the competitive Indian restaurant scene in London. By the low standards of Indian food in America it is practically miraculous.

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