Obama’s dined there; it’s won a plethora of foodie awards and the James Beard Foundation Awards declared it not only the best Indian restaurant in America, but one of the best restaurants in America! Rasika is a one way ticket to India – return indefinite – right smack dab in the middle of Penn Quarter. I took a group of 40 people, 90% of who were Indian, to Rasika after Cirque du Soleil and didn’t hear a single bad word about the food!Granted, by going with a group we did receive a different menu than an average patron might put together. However, all of the dishes we ate were on the regular menu. I have had Indian food plenty of times before, but never of this quality or flavor. Every single dish we had was better than the next! Now, if you have never had Indian food before, be prepared to experience new flavors and spices, as well as a fair amount of heat to most dishes. The servers at Rasika are knowledgeable on all dishes and happy to help guide diners in the best direction based on their tastes. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice! Here is the lowdown on what we had on our menu and what I thought of it:

Palak Chaat – One of my favorites! The texture of the spinach, mixed with the fried crunch and sweet taste of the yogurt and date chutney was a completely new taste for me and it did not dissapoint!

Palak Chaat

(Crispy baby spinach / sweet yogurt / tamarind / date chutney)

Sev batata puri – Very light and flavorful. The mango sweetened the dish so it almost tasted like it could pass as part of the dessert menu.
(Crispy biscuits / potatoes / raw mangoes/ gram flour vermicelli / chutneys)

Seekh Kabab – This dish is a distant relative of sausage and was very spicy. The flavor was excellent, particularly accompanied with the mint chutney.
(Minced lamb / garam masala / mint chutney)

Kali Mirch Tikka – Another one of my favorites! I am determined to find a way to make this at home. The chicken was cooked to perfection and had just the right amount of spice.
(Chicken / crushed black pepper / cashewnut / mint chutney)

Entrées:

Chicken Makhani

Chicken makhani – Also known as butter chicken. This dish was by far my favorite. Now, I’ve been told many times that if you are in the company of Indians and order this dish, you are asking to get made fun of as an America. Apparently, this is the most mild Indian dish you can order and Americans always like it the best. I’d be happy to be made fun of for ordering this dish as long as it meant I could eat it! If you visit Rasika, you have to try it!
(Broiled chicken / tomato / fenugreek)

Palak Paneer – This was a very nice side dish, but that’s just it – nice – nothing I’d write home about. Good taste, but I could take it or leave it.
(Spinach / cottage cheese / cumin)

Dal makhani – I didn’t get the chance to try this, but everyone we were with said it was phenomenal. Lentils are usually a staple in any Indian meal, so I’d say go for it, but I can’t recommend it as I didn’t try it myself!
(Lentils / caramelized onion)

Cucumber raita – You more than likely have had something like this before. If you’ve had greek food, the flavor is very similar to Tzaziki sauce. This isn’t something you’d eat on its own; you’ll want to put it on some naan bread or a dish that might be a bit too spicy for your taste buds.
(Cucumber / yogurt relish)

Lemon cashew nut rice – Self explanatory, but oh so good! Make sure to eat either the Chicken Makhani or the Dal Makhani (or any other dish with some flavorful sauce) atop the rice.

Bread basket – Three different types of naan (flatbread) – garlic, sage and plain. Have one of each and either dip in the sauce from one of the dishes you order or the cucumber raita!

Dessert:

gulab jamun, carrot halwa and cardemom ice cream

Gulab Jamun, Carrot Halwa and Cardamom Ice Cream – I have to be honest, at first, I was not sure what was what on my plate! Luckily, a coworker was able to point everything out and explain it to me. The gulab jamun was by far the best of the three servings on my plate and my goodness, was it good! It tasted a bit like a donut but the texture was so much moister. It is a traditional Indian dessert but I’ve never had anything like it! I only had a bite of the carrot halwa because the taste was sweet, but strong. The cardamom ice cream was very mild and lacked a lot of flavor. I was so full, so I wasn’t feeling too motivated to try to find combinations to make dessert taste better, but I’d venture a guess that the cardamom ice cream would cut the sharpness of the carrot halwa just perfectly.

All in all, by far one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in DC. I have to say, as I work for an Indian company, I’ve had traditional Indian food many, many times during the past year and this is NOT traditional Indian food. However, it is just plain amazing food – phenomenal service and even better food. I can’t wait to go again with friends and you should go as soon as you can!

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