About 6 weeks ago, an entry showed up on March 13th on my Google Calendar – “7:45 Stephanie’s Birthday Dinner.” (Adam and I share our Google calendars to keep track of joint events as well as so we can know when the other person is busy.)
Interesting, I thought. We’re going somewhere for dinner where you need to make a reservation several weeks in advance for a Tuesday night dinner.
I love surprises, so I didn’t want to confirm where we were going before my actual birthday. I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be Rasika, but I didn’t tell Adam that’s where I thought we were going. Then, a few weeks before my birthday, Adam made some sort of passing reference to the fact that we’d be eating a lot of food on my birthday, so I assumed we must be going somewhere with a tasting menu. I was pretty sure Rasika didn’t have one, so I decided that must not be where we were going.
In the intervening time between that conversation and my birthday, I completely forgot why I’d ruled out Rasika, so it tentatively went back on my list of places I thought we might be going. My second clue (in addition to needing to get a reservation well in advance) was that I needed to be dressed nicely for dinner. So I had a couple of other ideas in mind, but kept coming back to Rasika, even though I knew I’d ruled it out for some reason.
The night before my birthday, Adam told me that I should meet him at the Chinatown metro stop at 7:30. Now, I was pretty sure Rasika was actually close to his office near McPherson square, so I was back to thinking it wasn’t Rasika.
Well, as you can tell by the title of this post, we obviously went to Rasika. (Link is to the current Washingtonian review because the restaurant has a horrendous flash website I don’t want to subject you to.) I went onto their website the day of my birthday and determined that it (a) was close to the Chinatown metro (I was confusing it’s location with Bombay Club) and (b) it did have a tasting menu. So then, I was 99% sure that’s where were headed… and I was right. But I am so glad that I didn’t actually tell Adam where I thought we were going, because I’d much rather be surprised – even though I did guess it correctly. Adam has a terrible poker face, so if I even once mentioned that’s where I thought we were going, his face would have been a total giveaway.
So, now that I’ve written that unnecessarily long prelude, on to the food!
Rasika offers a both vegetarian and non-vegetarian four course and a six course tasting menus. We decided that because it was our first time there, we might as well go all out with the six course tasting menu so we could try as many different items as we could. (Adam’s courses are marked with an “A” and mine with an “S.”)
First Course: Palak Chaat (both)
+ One of my favorite courses of the entire night, this was crispy fried spinach tossed in a yogurt sauce. I could have eaten a giant plate of this.
Second Course: Tawa Baingan (S); Kadi Patte Ke Scallops (A)
+ Mine was an eggplant and potato dish with a delicious peanut sauce. I love Asian-inspired peanut sauces, but never have thought to do one with curry in it – I’m definitely going to have to try one at home!
Third Course: Mango Shrimp (A); some sort of potato fritter topped with a spicy apricot chutney (S)
+ The fritter was good, but didn’t really stand out in any way.
Fourth Course: Paneer Shashik; Black Cod
+ This was a kabob of panner, onions and peppers, served with some sort of green chili dish. It was good, although the cheese was a bit salty for my taste. Not one of my favorites of the night. However, this course was Adam’s favorite – he said it was the best fish he’s ever eaten!
Fifth Course: I suppose this was the “main” course, but by now we were stuffed! Our plates came out with some Bhindi Amchoor (fried okra with mango powder) and basmati rice, and then we were served several different dishes/sauces and breads:
Vegetable Nilgiri Korma (mixed veggies in a cilantro-based sauce), Dal Makhani (lentils in a tomato-based sauce) Anjeeri Kofta (fig dumplings in cashew nut cream) (S); Lamb Roganjosh (I think – definitely a lamb dish) some chicken dish (A)
+ The dal was, hands-down,the best dal I’ve ever had. I just had the leftovers for dinner (we were so stuffed by this course, we took some home) and I am sad it’s all gone. I would have traded the previous course AND the vegetable korma for a giant bowl of this stuff. Too bad I’m pretty sure a restaurant like this doesn’t do takeout…
Sixth Course: Apple Jalebi (beignet) with Cardamom Ice Cream, Carrot Pudding, and some sort of sticky honey dough ball (don’t think it’s on the menu)
+ As I said, we were SO full at this point, we really didn’t need dessert. I thought the dough ball was WAY too sweet and wasn’t a fan of the carrot pudding, but the cardamon ice cream was delicious. It was like vanilla bean ice cream, only instead of (or maybe in addition to) vanilla beans, it had flecks of cardamom. (Well, that’s a super-obvious description. Anyway, it was very good.)
If I were to go back, I would definitely get the palak chaat and the dal, and I’m sure Adam would get the cod. There is something on the dessert menu called a “coconut jaggery creme caramel” – not exactly sure what that is, but I’d totally get it if I had room for dessert!
Oh! I almost forgot the drinks! Adam and I tend to be more cocktail drinkers than wine drinkers, so we decided against the wine pairing you can get with the tasting menu. The cocktail list was heavily gin-based, which is not my favorite, but I found one I wanted to try that Adam swore wouldn’t taste too “ginny” (i.e., too much like a Christmas tree). Sadly, the cocktail menu doesn’t appear to be online, so I can’t exactly say what we had. My first drink was a gin, pear bush, and yuzu. Adam’s drink was a spicy gin, chili and (I think) lime drink. My second drink (which we ended up splitting) was so unusual – I didn’t even recognize the type of liquor in it, but it kind of tasted like mulling spices (sort of warm – flavor, not temperature – but not too spicy), with pomegranate juice and pisco. I’ve never had anything like it. I don’t think I could have more than one, but it was very good and definitely really interesting.