January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

Standout curries and tandoori specialties.

No. 30: Heritage India

It might not be the hippest Indian restaurant—you won’t find rosewater martinis, a high-style lounge, or vindaloo small plates—but this dining room, appointed with gold-threaded silks and carved wooden doors, has been a paragon of quiet elegance and fine cooking for two decades.

Even when it’s filled, the dining room feels hushed, with solemn waiters arranging curries and stews over warming flames at each table. The kitchen is well versed in many of the country’s regional cuisines—there’s yogurt-simmered lamb from the northern regions of Kashmir, thick filets of grouper stewed Goan-style in coconut and cumin, and vegetarian curries from the central state of Hyderabad.

What separates Heritage from the competition? A lot. The slowly stirred curries match tender meats to velvety gravies that are spicy but never assaulting. We’ve yet to see anything emerge from the tandoor dried out, whether it’s yogurt-marinated quail, lemony prawns, or saffron-scented chicken. Other dishes to look for are potatoes with chutney and mint, vegetable fritters, lamb vindaloo, baby eggplants stewed in sesame, chicken makhani, curried chicken with poppy seeds, and okra with mango powder.

Beautifully blistered breads are flecked with mint, brushed with butter, or stuffed with onions; cardamom-scented rice tempers the heat and sops up gravy. This is as traditional as Indian cooking gets, and it’s marvelous.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.