Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rasika West End Food Review II

Chicken Tikka Masala

From India with Love

Fancy a trip to India? If it's food you're after, then look no further than Rasika West End, by and far the best Indian cuisine in town (and new frontrunner for best lunch in DC.) My second visit in as many months produced fireworks across the board... atmosphere, flavor and service: Is it any wonder I can't wait to go back a third time?

If yesterday's lunch was a Broadway show, I'd still be standing (as in an ovation.) Sadly, I'm limited to mere words to express my appreciation for a Michelin-star experience. It began with a warm, professional greeting from Rasika's hostess, to a graceful escort from my server Evelyn to an ├╝ber-comfortable booth on the M Street side of the restaurant. Said booths are tall & cozy, bathed in a cool combination of charcoal and turquoise with dark brown tables. In addition to my window view, I had a full eyeshot of Rasika's stylish bar (complete with a "shocking" metal hand overhead... you have to see it, to appreciate it.) As far as comfort level goes... A+.

Sev Batata Puri

Evelyn got me started with Rasika's Monday drink special - Fresh squeezed Watermelon Juice with Black Pepper. Refreshing, but not too sweet. I especially liked the added kick from the pepper... so much so, I plan to steal the idea for home. After a few minutes, I placed an order for a Chaat (savory snack) Sev Batata Puri ($8) Naan Bread ($3) with Tomato/Golden Raisin Chutney ($2.5) and an entree - Chicken Tikka Masala, the national dish of England, no less ($17.) The order process was nothing short of a pleasure.

Watermelon Juice with Black Pepper

My appetizer arrived within five minutes, and let me say... was three steps shy of Heaven. Rasika's Sev Batata Puri somehow manages to trump their Palak Chaat for best dish on the menu. It's described on the menu as crispy biscuits, potatoes, raw mangoes, gram flour vermicelli, chutneys; but that doesn't begin to do it justice. The biscuit closer resembles a crispy cracker, and holds in place an unparalleled collection of flavors that dances in perfect harmony with a surprise (but welcome) kick at the end. It's also cold, which bodes well when the temperature hovers around 90° outside. It's so good, we've added it to our "Dirty Dozen," the top 12 bites in DC.

Naan with Tomato/Golden Raisin Chutney

You'd expect some kind of drop-off after such a scrumptious opening, but Rasika doesn't skip a beat with its pillowy soft, tear-away Naan bread & lavish chutney. Smartly presented atop lace paper doilies, both the bread & filling are without equal. I was literally gasping with each bite. From there, it was onto the aforementioned Chicken Tikka Marsala with rice. There was tons of moist, tender chicken inside a creamy, blood-orange sauce. I would have preferred it a tad spicier, but it was superbly seasoned all the same. It was also beautiful to look at, which made parting with my empty dish(es) a little easier to handle.

Coconut Mousse - Cherry Compote 

At near capacity, I wrestled over dessert. On one hand, I didn't want to risk spoiling a perfect lunch. On the other, I wasn't ready for it to end. Lucky for me, I took Evelyn's expert advice and opted for a Coconut Mousse ($9, pictured above.) Not only does it look decadent & rich, it tastes even more so. The cherry compote is found both outside and in, where it's particularly gooey and delicious. Once again, don't expect anything overly sweet: You get just enough coconut to prove it's there, but the true stars of this plate are cherry & chocolate... with an edge to the latter.

Overall, I can't say I've had a better lunch this year. When you consider I was in & out in under an hour, it's enough to blow one's mind. The staff is impeccable, and eager to please. I counted two outside check-ins, in addition to Evelyn's mindful care; and my water glass never reached half-empty. Would I come back? Of course! Prices are more than reasonable, and there is literally no shortage of choices when it comes to food. After three visits, I already have a list, six items long of must haves. That's as close to a sure thing as you'll find in the restaurant game.