Fine-dining Indian restaurants have been popping up across the DC area, from Punjab Grill’s glittering palace of mirrors in Penn Quarter to Bombay Velvet’s lobster malai curry in Reston. Missing from the mix? An upscale Indian dining room further down the Red Line in Montgomery County. Enter Commonwealth Indian, now open in North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose complex. The 100-seat restaurant is helmed by chef Sunil Bastola, proprietor of Bollywood Bistro in Fairfax and Great Falls.
Bastola was born in a Nepalese city bordering northern India, and his menu focuses on the Indian subcontinent’s northern region. Regional delicacies include apricot dumplings in a creamy gravy sauce and spiced lamb chops. Bastola is also adding some local flare: the kitchen simmers jumbo Maryland lump crab in turmeric, coconut milk, and royal cumin for a yellow crab curry.
Bastola’s cooking is tinged by culinary school lessons from places like Japan, France, and Italy, he says. “You can collaborate those places into your Indian food and make it something unique,” he says. “In Italian [food], you say meatball. We say kebab. The difference is the spices.”
The “prelude” section of the menu embodies Bastola’s philosophy on melding global flavors, layering mozzarella and korma sauce on a “naan pizza” and pairing Israeli salad with roti and chicken seekh kebabs. For dessert, the chef tucks chilled rose vermicelli under custard apple ice cream, and chocolate ganache is paired with cardamom for a “chocolate curry.”
The drink menu includes classic cocktails like an old-fashioned and a negroni, as well as tropical tamarind margaritas and basil lychee mojitos. Brunch, on the hand, is all about the bubbles. On Sunday mornings beginning in June, Commonwealth Indian is rolling out a bottomless Champagne brunch ($19.95 per person) underneath the sleek dining room’s opulent gold ceiling. The brunch features a buffet of predominantly north Indian appetizers, curries, tandoori dishes, and breakfast plates, washed down with free-flowing sparkling wine.
Commonwealth Indian. 11610 Old Georgetown Rd., North Bethesda. 240-833-3055. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM for lunch, Monday to Thursday 5 PM to 10 PM for dinner, Friday to Saturday 5 PM to 10:30 PM for dinner, Sunday 11 AM to 3 PM for brunch, Sunday 5 PM to 9:30 PM for dinner.