Bollywood Bistro (Full Review)

New and different Indian dining in Fairfax

Fairfax has plenty of pleasures for fans of Indian cooking: grazing the excellent lunch buffet at Minerva, tucking into the Southern Indian crepes called dosas at Woodlands, sampling Jain-style vegetarian cuisine at Saravana Palace. But until recently, there wasn’t anywhere to get, say, a lemon-rum mojito and Goan-style lobster in a nice, date-friendly setting.

Bollywood Bistro, the year-old offering from restaurant veteran Pankaj Sharma, is changing that. The dining room’s amber pendant lights are kept low, and its walls are printed with film-reel images of sultry Bollywood movie actors. There’s even a 1960s movie projector Sharma found on eBay.

The menu features a host of nouveau creations, such as raita with olives instead of cucumbers, rosemary-flecked naan, and pomegranate guacamole, but the bigger successes are more-familiar stews and curries. A rendition of blackened and mashed eggplant was a smoky standout, and twice-cooked black dal was wonderfully rich. Chicken dishes, such as a Kerala-inspired coconut curry and a tikka masala made extra-creamy with ground cashews, didn’t stint on heat, and a calamari appetizer with fennel seeds and cilantro was downright fiery—and delicious. If you’re wary of okra, which tends toward the gelatinous, the vividly spiced rendition here might change your mind. Goat masala, with bone-in hunks of meat and a thick gravy, has a surprising brightness for something so hearty.

The kitchen hasn’t fared as well when it strays into fusion territory. A small plate of shrimp glazed in honey and wine tasted sticky-sweet, that pomegranate guacamole was sour, and it turns out yogurty raita isn’t improved by olives. But service is attentive—the manager was shaking hands as customers departed one night. And the bar does mix a mean mojito.

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.