100 Best Restaurants 2010: Passage to India

No. 83: Passage to India

Cuisine: Chef/owner Sudhir Seth tackles his native India’s every culinary corner on his menu, which ranges far beyond commonplace curries and tandoori meats. With an impressive level of accuracy and consistency, he conveys the flavors of not just the familiar north (with its reliance on kebabs) and south (with its breads and veggie stews) but also the east and west.

Mood: The low-lit dining room, with elaborate wood carvings and photographs of Indian palaces, is a throwback in an age of clean-lined, bustling spaces: quiet, serious, almost serene. Waiters in jackets and bow ties tend to their tables with a military-like precision.

Best for: Anyone willing to venture beyond the safe ground of butter chicken; anyone seeking an oasis of calm to dine in.

Best dishes: Sev-murmura chaat, a mash-up of puffed rice, vermicelli, and dates, sweetened with tamarind; a potato-stuffed samosa dressed up with chickpeas and yogurt; juicy, thin slices of lamb cooked in the tandoor oven; shrimp in a coconut-based curry with coriander and garlic; a marvelous pickle plate; a dessert of fresh mango peeking out from a blanket of cardamom-spiked yogurt.

Insider tips: If you want to sample some of Seth’s complex and layered cooking but are on a budget, come at lunchtime. Main courses arrive with a side of lentils, rice, and a salad—all for about $10.

Service: ••

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Moderate.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants


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.