No. 18: Rasika
Cuisine: Indian food at its most inventive. Chef Vikram Sunderam’s refined gravies and elegant presentations will erase the memory of uninspired Indian buffets.
Mood: Few rooms in the area are trendier than this bead-and-silk-bedecked Penn Quarter place. But though the tables are jammed at night with bright young things, the atmosphere manages not to cross into exclusivity.
Best for: All those who say they don’t like, or don’t get, Indian food. This will likely be their gateway drug.
Best dishes: Black cod lightly sauced with star anise, dill, and honey; spicy chicken green masala with coriander and mint; poached lobster in a hot chili sauce; lamb rogan josh; dal makhani, a rich stew of spiced red lentils, perfect as a dip for any of the flavorful flatbreads; carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon; apple jalebi, a crispy-fried round of apple, with a scoop of orange-cardamom ice cream.
Insider tips: Rasika bills itself as the place to find wine pairings that stand up to the bold flavors of Indian cuisine, but you’re better off accompanying spicier dishes with a traditional Kingfisher beer. A three-course pretheater meal costs $30.
Service: **½ (two and a half stars).
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner.
See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurants.