Every morning at Ghar-E-Kabab, chefs Chandasar Ray and Chetnath Bhandari enact a delicate dance across the kitchen. Chef Ray pulls Indian and Nepalese spices from the spice rack for his simmering curry sauces. Meanwhile, Chef Bhandari alternates between fanning the flames of his earthen tandoor oven, and kneading batches of sweet naan dough, a traditional South Asian flat bread.
This daily ritual reflects the chefs’ mission to uphold traditional cooking methods they mastered in their native India and Nepal. Chef Bhandari originally arrived in DC to work as a chef for the Royal Nepalese Embassy, and he brings his revered attention to detail to his own restaurant. The duo crafts every entree from scratch, from the fluffy breads to the creamy yogurt sauces. But although they strive to follow traditional recipes, they tweak them for health: meats marinate in olive oil, and only local, organic produce simmers in the tandoor oven.
Mirch Masala's dishes of chicken and lamb kabobs, fluffy naan loaves, and creamy paneer honor the ancient flavors of the Indian subcontinent. Savory tomato sauce and dustings of ginger and cumin coat chickpeas, lamb, and poultry, while mango lassi and tamarind chutney add touches of sweetness to meals. Like the series of pneumatic tubes that ran under the Silk Road, the selection of Indo-Chinese dishes unite the produce and customs of India and China, fashioning inventive feasts such as ginger-cooked chili chicken entangled by hearty lo-mein noodles.
Old and new flavors mingle in the bustling kitchen at Indique. Amid cushy benches and satin pillows, diners discover a menu packed with Indian classics such as lamb vindaloo and tandoori chicken, as well as modern interpretations including charcoal-grilled king shrimps or the Achari chicken taco—poultry pickled in traditional Indian spices and served in a corn tortilla. Indique has been called one of the area's 100 Very Best Restaurants for seven years running by the Washingtonian, whose reporters raved about the salmon sliders and the okra with dried mango powder.
Angeethi blends Indian spices and ingredients in order to serve fresh, piquant entrees brimming with flavors straight out of Calcutta. Start by appointing one of Angeethi's appetizers as ambassador to your mouth, with options like deep-fried vegetable samosa ($4, two per order), and barbecued reshmi-kebab chicken ($6). From there, the restaurant's mammoth menu offers a long list of seafood, lamb, tandoori, and vegetarian entrees. The succulent goan white fish ($18) comes sautéed in delectable coconut curry, and the bakri balti ($16) is marinated goat, cooked in an herbed balti sauce with a pinch of wine. Awaken the senses with the murg tandoori¬ ($13), which consists of chicken that's marinated overnight in yogurt, told a rousing bedtime story around 2 a.m., then meticulously barbequed in a clay oven. Vegetarian entrees include palak paneer ($12), homemade cheese cubes and spinach made zesty with herbaceous spices. Wash down any spicy residue with a glass of vino from the beverage menu, offering wine from Washington, California, Italy, New Zealand, and other locales.
TKTK for Spice Crossing: The story of Spice Crossing mirrors the story of New Delhi–born chef Sudhir Seth, whose road to Bethesda produces a narrative involving some of the most powerful people in both the culinary and political realms. His mother had mastered cooking in the styles of several Indian regions—a trait that she passed on to Sudhir while teaching him to respect their authenticity. When he turned 18, he became a trainee for the former chef of Buckingham Palace at his Indian restaurant, where Sudhir flourished. His next endeavor was working for celebrated French chef Paul Bocuse, before he spent time across the southern states of the subcontinent, during which time he served Queen Elizabeth II. In the United States, Sudhir opened successful restaurants in New York and Chicago before settling in the DC area, where he cooked for President Clinton and his family at the Bombay Club. Dissatisfied with the lack of diversity in Indian dishes across the city, he established two of his own restaurants: Passage to India, with a focus on authenticity, and Spice Crossing, where he fuses Indian culinary traditions with global influences. This amalgamation takes form in tandoori wings, Portuguese¬–inspired spicy shrimp, and cheese dumplings smothered in a gravy flavored with mace and cardamom. Similar to the restaurant’s cuisine, the décor represents the British, Portuguese, Chinese, Spanish, and French influences on Indian culture. Orange and yellow silk drapes hang from the ceiling and create the feeling of being in a rajah’s tent. Their neutral colors juxtapose with bright turquoise walls and the geometric artwork that covers them. On Fridays, the staff hosts “Curry-Oke,” where singers can choose from 7,000 songs, including Bollywood favorites. TKTK Passage to India: The story of Passage to India mirrors the story of New Delhi–born chef Sudhir Seth, whose road to Bethesda produces a narrative involving some of the most powerful people in both the culinary and political realms. His mother had mastered cooking in the styles of several Indian regions—a trait that she passed on to Sudhir while teaching him to respect their authenticity. When he turned 18, he became a trainee for the former chef of Buckingham Palace at his Indian restaurant, where Sudhir flourished. His next endeavor was working for celebrated French chef Paul Bocuse, before he spent time across the southern states of the subcontinent, during which time he served Queen Elizabeth II. In the United States, Sudhir opened successful restaurants in New York and Chicago before settling in the DC area, where he cooked for President Clinton and his family at the Bombay Club. Dissatisfied with the lack of diversity in Indian dishes across the city, he established Passage to India as a place where he can showcase traditionally prepared dishes by their region. The entrees on the dinner menu are separated according to the cardinal directions; from the north, stewed goat meat infused with garlic, onion, turnips and herbs slides off the bone, while the western-style prawn curry gets a kick from star anise. The southern baingan mirchi ka salan comprises baby eggplants and jalapenos that are simmered in a sesame-peanut gravy, a dish lauded by the Washingtonian. The amount of care put into the menu is met by the attention to detail in the dining room’s décor, where sepia portraits of rajahs share wall space with those of British viceroys of the East India Company as well as ornamental screens and a wooden diptych. Wooden chairs and patterned banquettes surround turquoise- and white-topped tables, which rest beneath antique maps of the subcontinent.
Yummy Indian food meets mellow décor in at this Tenleytown restaurant. As you enter the small about 50-seat Masala Art, you are welcomed by soothing music and mint-green walls adorned with tasteful artwork. The food is equally as vibrant on the plate, with much of the menu matching the vibrant colors of traditional Northern Indian cuisine. The house’s signature masala spice blends bring the heat, though not every dish leans on the heat. A favorite appetizer is the Aloo Tikki Chaat, fried potato cakes over chickpeas and sweet yogurt, while the Murg Makhani , known more affectionately as butter chicken, is one of the most frequently-ordered entrées. Portion sizes are filling, the service is attentive, the naan is fresh and the price is right – what’s not to like?