Food

January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A chandeliered Indian cafe and cocktail lounge.

No. 98: Indique

Don’t be fooled by the Raj-gone-modern look. The spicing here is as assertive as at more traditional Indian restaurants. But you get a shot of glamour, too, in this Cleveland Park dining room. Walls of cinnamon play backdrop to silk bolsters and finely worked textiles hung as art. The effect is simultaneously luxurious and spare.

Similarly, the kitchen flip-flops between the new and traditional. New are a deconstructed vegetable samosa that pleases both palate and eye; a luscious mound of calamari tossed with ginger, hot pepper, and mustard seeds; and red-pepper-and-anise-spiced crab cakes. Traditional are the spongy-on-one-side, crisp-on-the-other fermented rice pancake known as appam, which is dunked in a bowl of  ishtew, a coconut-milk stew; an estimable lamb  rogan josh; and a Cornish-hen curry that’s as rich and soothing as the setting.

The recent addition of a sister restaurant, Indique Heights, has brought some unevenness. Tandoori chicken chops—really breasts on the bone—are cooked beyond done. And  baingan bhartha —tandoor-roasted eggplant—lacks the carefully layered flavoring it has at its best.

Service has never been a strong point. The language barrier creates misunderstandings at times, so you might end up with the pomegranate martini instead of the pomegranate margarita—a shame because the margarita is bracing and tart, the martini cloyingly sweet.

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