100 Best Restaurants 2008: Heritage India

No. 52: Heritage India

Cuisine: Elegant Indian cooking that demonstrates the difference between heat and genuine spice and is done with flair—often in copper pots warmed over a flame at the table. The kitchen goes beyond the standards with vegetable stews and fish dishes rarely seen on local menus.

Mood: Carved-wood panels, luxurious fabrics, and twinkling lamps with beaded shades give the many-windowed second-floor dining room the feel of an Indian merchant’s home. The vested waiters, though sometimes almost curt, convey a sense of dining on the Orient Express.

Best for: Diners, including vegetarians, who savor the subtlety and elegance of refined Indian cooking.

Best dishes: Perfectly cooked shrimp in sesame oil; sautéed calamari with coconut and lemon; bhelpuri, a jumble of puffed rice, chickpea vermicelli, shallots, and chutneys; crispy okra with mango powder; baby eggplants in sesame sauce; luxuriant dal, a dish of lentils with cream and butter; rasmalai, cheese-and-milk puffs (think doughnuts) with pistachio sauce.

Insider tips: Meals can get overrich, so try for a mix of meat- and vegetable-based dishes and an assortment of breads, not just the fried kulchas. The vegetarian curries are available in half portions.

Service: ½

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 Petworth.