Rasika has long been cherished by Washington food lovers as our treasure, besting even New York. Kudos to longtime chef Vikram Sunderam for keeping it so. Few can layer spices with such finesse that all 14 aromatics in the lamb xacuti curry sing, coax vegetables to steal the show (this is the place to treat vegetarians), or reimagine classics with a fine-dining eye that’s not gratuitous (yes, vindaloo curry tastes better with seared duck). Menus vary by location, and you won’t go wrong at either, especially because must-try staples such as glazed black cod grace both. Still, we tip favor to the original in Penn Quarter for its lustrous, spice-hued decor and chef’s tasting counter. As for dessert, sweets such as mango tarte Tatin are as refined as the savories. Expensive.
Also great: Crab-pepper masala; mango shrimp; lobster hawa mahal; gobhi mattar (gingery cauliflower); goat-cheese kulcha; tandoori lamb chops; apple beignet with cardamom ice cream.