Tamashaa Brings Inventive Indian Cooking to Columbia Heights

The brightly colored restaurant offers elaborate cocktails and unorthodox small plates.

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Tamashaa’s vibrant interior was designed by Shivani Chopra. Photograph courtesy of Tamashaa.

Tamashaa. 3115 14th St., NW.

Northern Virginia is home to some of the DC area’s most exciting and uncompromising South Asian restaurants. Now one of them is making the jump from the suburbs into DC proper.

New Delhi-born restaurateur Rajiv Chopra and his wife Shivani Chopra open Tamashaa, an upscale Indian “gastro bar” in Columbia Heights today. The restaurant draws on regional techniques and dishes from all over the subcontinent, giving them a glamorous treatment with showy presentations, elaborate cocktails, and moody lighting. Appropriately, the restaurant’s name means “performance” or “spectacle” in Hindi.

Rajiv Chopra’s Fairfax County Indian restaurants bridged the gap between casual and polished. Punjabi by Nature (which he founded but is no longer involved in) serves regional dishes from a counter in a Chantilly food court and now-closed storefront in Vienna, while Bombay Velvet pairs chaats, kebabs, and curries with luxurious cocktails topped with smoke or presented in wild glassware.

A trip exploring regional cuisines around India last year helped inspire Tamashaa: “We were thinking to put it all together in one basket and under one roof,” he says. Chef Manoj Goel has worked in hotels and restaurants in New Delhi. His menu focuses on unorthodox small plates like crispy okra sweet potato chaat, shrimp-asparagus chaat, multigrain sev puri with avocado and cranberry, burger-like lamb vada pao sliders, and crispy chickpea ghevar chaat. 

Chef Manoj Goel’s small plates use atypical ingredients, like a shrimp-avocado chaat. Photograph courtesy of Tamashaa.

Seasonal meats like soft shell crab, branzino, duck, and cornish hen each get their own Indian preparations. Tamashaa also offers a separate chutney menu: seven distinctive spicy-sweet sauces ranging from gooseberry cilantro to heirloom tomato-fennel. Devotees of straightforward Indian comfort food can find Old Delhi butter chicken, saag paneer, biryani, and various naans and parathas under the menu’s “Classics” heading.

General manager Satyam Rai’s cocktails like the Silk Route (clarified chai, white rum, ginger) and the Kashmir Valley (Haku vodka, kashmiri chili sake, pickled apricot) take cues from Indian culture and history. His non-alcoholic drinks each pay tribute to a character from the epic Mahabharata: the Pandavas, for example, contains guava, mango, basil, mint, and cardamom.  

What most obviously separates Tamashaa from Chopra’s first suburban restaurants is its style: Shivani, Chopra’s wife and co-founder, designed the vibrant, Bollywood-inspired interior, with intense violet and orange hues and an intricate tile floor. “A lot of thought has gone into interior design in this restaurant,” Chopra says. 

Now, Chopra has set his sights fully on DC, looking to join the ranks of well-established upscale Indian options like Rasika, Rania, and Daru. Tamashaa will soon be joined by an as-yet-unnamed sister restaurant in the Barracks Row area, set to open within the next five months. 

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor