WASHINGTON -- Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj is getting ready to open up a second location of his popular upscale Indian dining spot, Rasika, on March 30 at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and M Street NW.
But this new iteration in the West End is not a copy of Rasika's Penn Quarter location. The menu is largely different but like the original, also features modern Indian fare.
Dishes are prepared in a variety of ways, including on a tawa (griddle) and sigri (open barbecue). There are, however, more vegetarian options than its sibling and a new menu section called Nosh-Farmana, which translates roughly in Hindi to a polite way of saying 'to consumer.'
There are a few heavy hitters from the first Rasika's menu, though. Long-time fans will recognize the tawa baingan, a dish of eggplant, spiced potato, olive oil and peanut sauce, a classic chicken tikka masala and palak chaat, crispy baby spinach with yogurt, tamarind and dates.
Bajaj isn't banking on the food being the only draw. The place itself is a sight: designed by James Beard Award-nominated restaurant designer Martin Vahtra, the space's central theme is a sprawling natural anigre wood ceiling evocative of Indian's national tree, the Banyan.
A media advisory explains the Banyan's religious significance:
The Banyan tree plays an important roll in Indian culture as it’s the resting place for the God Krishna and is known for its aerial prop roots that grow into think woody trucks which, with age, can become indistinguishable from the main trunk.
Color comes in the form of teal booths, and light spills in from all sides thank to entire sections of wall made of glass.
Sommelier and restaurant manager Alexander Carlin plans to offer a range of new world wines, from California's central coast, South America, South Africa and Australia. "I don't want to intimidate people with hard-to-pronounce names," Carlin told The Huffington Post. "[We're] trying to break that mold that in Indian cuisine, you need to have a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer."
The selection, he says, pairs well with flavors like mango, cardamom and tamarind -- not always an easy feat. Carlin is confident he's pulled it off. The price point is accessible, too, with the average bottle going between $60 and $80.
The restaurant isn't slated to start business until Friday, but diners can get in early thanks to a soft opening that started Monday night.
Below, check out a photo tour of the new space and a look at the food menu: