100 Very Best Restaurants 2013: Passage to India

The dining room at Passage to India in Bethesda, Maryland. Photograph by Chris Campbell.

If you think of Indian food primarily as takeout from the
neighborhood curry house, you’re missing the pleasures to be had in a
restaurant that aspires to the first rank.

The dining room is decorated in gold and brass and adorned with
royal prints. Servers seem to impersonate a concierge at a four-star
hotel—spooning curries from copper pots, bringing seconds of
cinnamon-flavored rice, and smiling all the while.

This could feel overdone if the food weren’t equal to the level
of the attention, but the kitchen is more than capable. Take its
saag—so good you might think you’d never tried the dish before.
Most of the menu, however, is an enticement to break from the expected,
and the fun is in exploring seldom-seen dishes of the East and West,
including the coconut-rich flavors of Kerala. Don’t miss:
Seekh kebab; pan-fried okra with mango powder; shrimp in coconut
sauce; goat curry; potatoes with onions and curry leaf; garlic
naan or kulcha; pickle platter; dal. Open:
Daily for lunch and dinner. Moderate.

100 Very Best Restaurants 2013

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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.