100 Best Restaurants 2011: Spice Xing

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

At Bethesda’s Passage to India, proprietor Sudhir Seth borrows from his native India’s many regional cuisines. At this Rockville sibling, he brings together a more freewheeling roster that includes the bread pakoras found at Indian social clubs, an Indian take on roast chicken, and even a gingery, tandoori-cooked pineapple.

Street snacks, such as paper-thin crepes known as dosas and the thicker pancakes called uttapams, are turned into small plates, and it’s easy to put together a tapas-style meal—at the weekday happy hour, many small plates are half price.

Grazing on dishes like these in the lovely dining room—billowing with swaths of jewel-toned silk—might make you forget things such as chicken tikka masala and coconut-laced shrimp curry. But the spicier-than-usual renditions are standard-setters.

Also good: Fiery chicken wings from the tandoor; tamarind-glazed shrimp; chutney-streaked salads such as papri chaat, with chickpeas and potatoes, and bhel puri, made with puffed rice; miniature chili-cheese toasts; Malbari chicken curry; Persian lamb stew with apricots; lychee mojito and martini.

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.

>> 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 Logan Circle.