“Have you ever had ‘Indian spicy’?” our waiter asks when we request that the kitchen go full-blast. He has a right to be concerned. When unleashed, the heat at this otherwise unassuming Indian spot near Dulles Airport can scorch—even pappadams pack serious peppery bite, and tender goat in a chili-laced onion gravy imparts a slow and steady burn. (Chilled raita helps.) Still, the spice-averse won’t go hungry. A popular all-you-can-eat lunch buffet offers a milder version of that goat curry, and diners can scale the heat up and down as they please. Given the punches the kitchen is capable of packing, mild dishes can be surprisingly delicate—try a fragrant biryanicrowned with onions and herbs.
Also good: Vegetable pakora; tandoori chicken tangdi; baingan bharta (eggplant with ginger and garlic); kulcha stuffed with paneer cheese, onions, and jalapeños.