Great New Restaurants 2010: Masala Art

25 places that are making the Washington dining scene better than ever

Butter chicken—so-called for the smooth richness of its tangy tomato-and-yogurt gravy—is a good gateway dish for diners getting acquainted with Indian cooking. It’s also a safe harbor amid the scorching heat found on many Indian menus. The version at this Tenleytown storefront challenges convention. Its gravy is so vivid and zesty that you might wonder if it’s the same dish you’ve been eating for years. So it often goes at Masala Art, where familiar tastes—samosas, dal, and even naan—are rendered afresh thanks to Surinder Kumar, for many years the chef at Heritage India, a standard bearer in DC’s Glover Park. Owner Atul Bhola managed the dining room there for more than a decade. The duo gives the restaurant a one-two punch that’s almost as strong as one of its curries.

Don’t miss: Bhel puri; chickpea-and-onion fritters; sole curry; chicken in cashew-and-saffron curry; naan with rock salt and cilantro.

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.