100 Best Restaurants 2011: Rasika

No. 9

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

Softly lit and draped in rich fabrics, Ashok Bajaj’s Penn Quarter dining room is a sensual setting. In the open kitchen, chef Vikram Sunderam turns out the area’s most exciting Indian flavors, able to showcase cutting-edge Indian cuisine while also elevating such familiar stews as chicken makhni and lamb rogan josh.

Some of Sunderam’s creations employ ingredients not typically seen in Indian cooking, such as a layering of avocado and banana with tamarind chutney or a lentil pancake laden with asparagus. Although matching Indian dishes with wines can be tricky, the restaurant offers a four- or six-course chef’s-table menu with wine pairings. Innovative cocktails—especially one made with Scotch and spiced honey—disprove the notion that Indian food should be served only with pale ale.

Also good: Mango shrimp with a bright cilantro sauce; fried spinach with date chutney; black cod with a hint of star anise; breads such as goat-cheese-filled kulcha, warm naan, and mint paratha; date-and-toffee pudding fragrant with vanilla.

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Expensive.

>> See all of 2011's 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 Petworth.