Reviewing restaurants seems to be a very rare thing for me. It's probably due to the fact that I don't go out to eat a lot, and when I do, I manage to forget about taking pictures thus rendering posts useless. Well, I finally remembered to blog and take pictures! I will be giving you my review for the Indian hot spot, Rasika, located in downtown DC, right near Chinatown.
DC boasts many fine dining restaurants and I have patronized several of them. I've very rarely been dissapointed, which is great because I would hate to dislike the food in the city I'm living in. Raskia is a highly rated Indian establishment that continously gets rave reviews. Being the foodie that I am, I take such honors very seriously. I have now started to realize that this is not always a good thing to do. But only when it comes to eating at an Indian restaurant.
As you may know, I love Indian food. If you don't, then clearly you haven't been reading my blog. So when it comes to these food places, I hold the bar very high, perhaps a little to high. I compare the food to the likes of my mother, grandmothers, and aunts. Once again, having the bar so high can't be a good idea. For one, the food made in restaurants won't be authentic. This may come as a shock to you, dear reader, but many ethnic foods are dumbed down for the American palate. That's not saying we are the only country that does this, I am sure there are pleanty of other countries that the same. Take note of the Pizza Huts in India, I think they have paneer pizza. Not that it doesn't sound awesome, but I'm just thinking that it's not what Mr. Pizza Hut originally envisioned. Anyways, the Indian food is not what I eat at home, so I should assume that it won't be as good as what I expect.
Now it's not that Rasika is a bad restaurant. By no means is it bad, it was actually pretty good. The ambiance of the place is a modern chic with a hint of India thrown in. There is the ever present low lighting (always seen at the swankiest of establishments) coupled with low squishy lounge chairs and large modern paintings. Overall you could see from the decor what the chef intended to portray in his food.
Upon sitting, our waiter greeted us promptyly sporting a Nehru Suit uniform. He looked very nice, but most guys look good when sporting Indian clothes, so who knows! We sat at one of the small lounge tables (you know where one person sits in the booth-y part and the other sits in the chair). The booth was comfortable, sans the fact that I sank lower than the eyeline of my friend, so that wasn't ideal.
The menu definitely presented quite a few choices making it extremely hard to decide on what you want. They all sounded so good, so narrowing them down seemed difficult! We decided to forgo the pre-planned tasting menus (vegetarian and non vegetarian) and decided to order our own things: two appetizers (or apps as my homie Tom Haverford would call them), 2 entrees and 2 desserts (aka zerts via Tommy Fresh).
Apps aka Appertizers
This was our first appetizer and I was actually quite happy with it. Two kebabs were served along side a fresh mint chutney. I found the kebabs to be quite flavorful and even had a little spicy kick to them. My friend didn't agree with the spicy part, so I think I may have just eaten a green chili. This was a mix of crab, salmon and prawns, resulting in a hearty and meaty start to the meal. With the qunitssential Indian spice, garam masala, mixed in, this is something I would order again.
The second of our appetizers didn't impress me like the other one. I called it "the poor man's vunkaya (eggplant) kura (curry)." The presentation on this was quite similar to a caprese you would get in an Italian restaurant. Thin layers of grilled eggplant was placed between spiced potato. Then it was topped with a semi-sweet, tamarind like peanut sauce. This was a very tender dish that allowed my fork to cut into easily. After taking my first bite, I noticed that the eggplant was lost in the startchiness of the potatoes. For something with the name "baingan" in it, it was certainly lacking in the eggplant department. I was rather underwhelmed by this dish, which made me a little sad and wishing there was more of the seafood kebab left.
Now this is a very popular dish that I have seen on several Indian menus. Tender chunks of lamb that have been stewing away in a masala tomato sauce. Cooked properly and the lamb can be cut with your fork, cooked poorly and it could take out a couple of our teeth. I'm glad to say that the lamb was easily cut with the fork and fell apart nicely. The sauce was also nice. It was very reminicient of the many meat masalas that are found in Indian cooking. While this wasn't the most amazing thing I have eaten, it certainly seemed quite authentic.
Now this was a somewhat new, exciting and unusual dish for me. This was a filet of flounder cooked with Peri-Peri malasa and then covered with a tart baby shrimp curry. This was pretty good! What made me happy was that they left the skin on the fish and they browned the edges so they were extra crispy. I think what would have set this over the top was if it wasn't served with the baby shrimp curry. I think it took away from the flavors of the fish and masala powder. However, this wasn't a huge loss and it was still quite good. The fish was cooked perfectly and flaked nicely, becuase nothing is worse than over cooked fish.
Zerts or Desserts
Now I'm not sure what part of this was a jalebi, but I think they were just using the term loosely. I feel like the could have found a better Indian snack to compare to a beignet. Despite its misleading name, this dessert was lovely. They took sliced of apple and deep fried them into a nice airy beignet. Then they gave it with a rich silky cardamom ice cream. This definitely screamed Indian fusion and it's something worth ordering again.
Once again another attempt at fushion that wasn't very succesful for me, but that's because I don't like jaggery.....I have no idea why I ordered it then. This was literally a coconut flan serve on a jaggery caramel syrup. Then it was topped with a tart cream. It was just a lot of things I didn't want in my dessert. I think other people would probably love this, but its because they probably don't have the same aversion to jaggery as I do. Jaggery is pretty much a solid mass of sugar that has it own distinctive taste. It reminds me of very specific dishes from home, so when I eat it in any other setting, it just doesn't seem right. While I may not order this again, I'm sure someone else would and they would enjoy it swimmingly.
Overall: Rasika was a good expereince and it was a place I may recommend. May being the operative word. The big issue I had with this place was that the food was priced much higher than it should be. Just because you are a highly acclaimed place doesn't mean your prices need to reflect that. The quality/taste of the food didn't match the price very well. While the quality of it was excellent and the overall taste was good, there was no need to price it like everyone there was a Rockerfeller. I'm not sure if I would go back again because I think I could just go to my local Indian store and make several of these dishes myself and do better. Perhaps I should just stop going to Indian restaurants.....