Rasika is a well-reviewed, high-end Indian restaurant located in Penn Quarter. Its exterior is unassuming, its interior welcoming, with lots of burnt orange tones, low tables and flickering candles. Reservations are recommended, but you can try to nab seats at the bar for dinner as well. Watching the bartenders work is comparable to watching sushi chefs assemble their concoctions. As a bonus, the bartenders are very knowledgeable about the menu. We left most of the entrée-choosing to our man, and ended up with several appetizers, a few half-portions of entrées, and a vegetable side or two. (This was all on a college kid’s budget; don’t let the $30 entrees frighten you away. This menu can work for any wallet size.)
Rasika’s appetizers excel. A tower of potato disks, chickpeas and spices disintegrates into a flavorful mush when you try to cut it apart. The crispy spinach salad, the restaurant’s most popular hors d’oeurve, is a standout. Both dishes combine four to five distinct, exotic flavors that contrast fabulously and never overpower one another.
Other dishes play it safe. The mango shrimp is a very nice, simple dish of four pink shrimp and a pastel green, mild yogurt sauce for dipping. It lacks the stand-out boldness of the crispy spinach salad. The bowl of complementary bar popcorn features light notes of lime, chili, curry, salt, and sugar; a tiny, elegant snack for casual upscale diners.
Rasika’s entrees are potent. The eggplant side dish is a vegetable in hiding, whipped into a paste and spiced heavily. The menu, being Indian, features several potencies of curry, from mild to very spicy. We chose the mildly spicy fish curry, which the bartender promised had a bit of sweetness to it. The fish had a pure, clean taste, but the curry was so hot that I physically sweated while eating it. (Clearly, I need to eat more spicy food. 🙂 )