This story is republished from resy.com, your source for restaurant bookings and discovery.
Indian food is, and has long been, wildly popular in D.C., and with good reason. We love a diversity of bold flavors, and the many regional cuisines on offer provide just that. This is why, quite simply, the variety of Indian restaurants in the District is nearly unparalleled in the US. You can have your choice of anything from fancy high-end Indian dining to trendy cocktail-focused spots to hit up with friends to casual places for a quick bite.
So, we’re swimming in great options. Keep handy this list of best Indian restaurants in the city at your leisure and think about whether you want to treat yourself to the earthy truffle naan at the refined Rasika West End, the meaty mushroom biryani at hot spot Daru, or the chutney sampler at Cleveland Park’s charming Indique. And if you can’t decide, take your time and visit them one by one. Because there is an experience for everyone, from uber-chic modern dining at Rania to the crowded fun times at Bombay Street Food. No wrong answers – just a bounty of exceptional Indian cooking.
For a special occasion, look no further than Rasika West End. The gorgeous aqua-colored booths, the anigre wood ceiling, the glass-topped bar, and the dramatic Indian artwork all come together to make for a spectacular setting for an important dinner. And the remarkable modern Indian food from James Beard winner Vikrum Sunderam makes it even more memorable. Indulge in some of his famous dishes, which include truffle naan, spicy potato patties called ragda pattice drizzled with homemade mint chutney, sweet potato samosas, kale fritters, and smoked lentils.
Rasika West End’s sister restaurant, Rasika Penn Quarter, is smaller and more intimate, and offers an equally exciting menu, with Indian fusion items like a Gujarati lasagna, where eggplant and zucchini are cooked in a spice-infused tomato sauce, layered with thin sheets of khandvi, made of garam flour, and doused in a buttermilk yellow gravy composed of chickpea flour, yogurt, and mustard seeds.
What sets Bindaas apart from the other Indian restaurants in the city is its fun, street snack-filled menu. It is a glorious tribute to India’s dynamic, exciting street food culture. Sample dishes like kathi rolls – spicy Indian wraps with a chewy whole wheat roti enrobing strips of sweet bell pepper and onions and hunks of paneer, a soft, unaged cow’s milk cheese – golgappas, hollow crispy cracker-like spheres filled with avocado, yogurt, and a sweet tamarind chutney, and wada pao, baby sandwiches of garlic, ginger, turmeric, and garam masala-spiced potato and vegetable patties served on a bun with a fiery cilantro chutney.
Pro tip: Bindaas Cleveland Park is the original location, but it only serves dinner. If you want to have an Indian street food meal for lunch or brunch, head to the Foggy Bottom location.
Bombay Street Food
With five locations around the city (Columbia Heights, Capital Hill, U Street Corridor, Adams Morgan, National Harbor), no matter where you are you are probably close to a Bombay Street Food outpost. All of them order a distillation of the casual Indian dining experience, with an approachable menu that offers classic north Indian dishes like creamy yellow lentils, chickpeas in a tomato gravy, bhel puri – a popular street snack of puffed rice smothered in sweet and savory chutneys – and pakoras, which are crispy, finger-licking-good vegetable fritters.
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For a delicious meal in an upscale, modern-day setting, visit Karma Modern Indian. Perfect for a date night, with its elegant gold and navy-blue hues, it serves up sensational Indian fare. Standout dishes include the zucchini kofta – zucchini and chickpea dumplings swimming in a garlic-infused tomato sauce – and potato-stuffed turnips served in a luscious, nutty pistachio gravy. For dessert, try the rose-flavored ice cream, or for a truly Indian dessert experience, the kulfi, a pistachio-flavored frozen dessert eaten throughout India. Insider info: The Karma team just opened their second venue, Kismet, located in Alexandria.
Indian food is best eaten family-style, and so the more people you have to share your meal, the more fun it is going to be. Pappe provides a great atmosphere for group dining, with comfy booths, colorful decorations, and menu full of exciting options. The diversity of the menu is its best feature, with dishes from different parts of India, such as fish curry and uttapam (rice pancakes) from the southern states of India, malai kofta and aloo gobi from the state of Punjab, and gobi Manchurian, an Indo-Chinese dish popular in New Delhi.
This trendy H Street venue is a great spot for visiting with friends who want to enjoy modern Indian fare alongside innovative cocktails. The eggplant paneer bhurji, a dish in which eggplant and paneer cheese are married and cooked down with spices like sumac and chaat masala, is a super-spicy and flavorful way to kick off your meal. Meanwhile, the wild mushroom biryani, paneer doused in pesto, and smoky and earthy black lentils crowned with a sphere of burrata are rich, flavorful dishes with an Italian twist. For drinks, the Chai-Teani is a heady rum and masala chai concoction, and for something fruity and spicy get the Mango Tango with bourbon, mango, and chili pepper.
Call 202-388-1848 for reservations.
If you want to feel like you’re dining like Indian royalty, book yourself a table at Rania. The venue only offers a prix fixe meal of three or four courses, with each course having a series of options. Each course has choices that showcase the kitchen’s ability to take classic Indian ingredients and develop them into creative culinary creations, like chickpeas cooked with Indian spices and molded into crunchy chickpea fries, roasted beets tossed in a Madras curry vinaigrette, and battered and fried shiso leaves served with green mango and mint. Mop up all the delights with an order of the fragrant garlic naan.
Call 202-804-6434 for reservations.
For an old-world Indian dinner experience, head to Indique, one of the area’s oldest and most reliably delicious Indian restaurants. Its classic dishes remain some of the best in town; try the crunchy mini dosa, a south Indian crepe that comes stuffed with potatoes and is served with a sweet fresh coconut chutney and a spicy lentil dipping sauce called sambar. Elsewhere, opt for the morel vegetable stew, where chewy morel mushrooms are soaked in a velvety coconut curry, and the asparagus poriyal, featuring minced asparagus shallow-fried with mustard seeds and curry leaves. The restaurant’s cocktails are as impressive as the cuisine; people love the garam masala tonic and the Mumbai Mule.