Whether you’re looking for high-end tasting menus, traditional, homey dishes or more contemporary takes on Indian cuisine in the nation’s capital, we’ve got you covered.
Here are six MICHELIN-recommended restaurants to head to when you’re looking for a delicious and satisfying Indian meal in Washington, D.C.
What It Is: The Tandon family’s 1,000-square-foot hotspot in NOMA.
What Our Inspectors Say: “It’s yellow, not the telltale blue of its name, that defines this sunny Indian restaurant. Located in a cheerful house with a patio full of colorful picnic tables, Indigo is far from fancy (it’s largely self-service and food is served in disposable containers). But, how can you not adore a place where love notes from customers cover the walls? Indian expats and residents line up for such classic comfort cooking from the sub-continent as as spicy chicken masala and tender, melt-in-your-mouth goat curry. Even side dishes are elevated here-for instance, daal is packed with smoky flavor and doused in a cardamom-scented sauce, while paneer paratha (flatbread stuffed with cheese, onion, chopped red chiles and cilantro) is especially fluffy and addictive.”
What It Is: Chef/owner Ashok Bajaj’s Penn Quarter stalwart.
What Our Inspectors Say: “A fixture on the D.C. scene for a number of decades now, this Penn Quarter stalwart, owned by the affable Ashok Bajaj, still functions as a club for politicians and Beltway insiders. Polished and sophisticated with just a hint of spice, Bombay Club’s environs are a nostalgic nod to the clubs of the British Raj. If you can take your eyes off the senator snuggled into the half-moon banquette, the polished Indian cuisine doesn’t disappoint. Palate-pleasing items span the continent to include Northern grilled meats, as well as Southern seafood and coconut-inflected dishes. Tender minced lamb is coaxed with a hint of heat in the Seekh kebab, while the bharli vangi's soft-as-pudding bulbs of stuffed and braised baby eggplant simply burst with flavor."
What It Is: Chef Jaspratap Bindra takes his Indian fare to new heights at this Downtown attraction.
What Our Inspectors Say: "From the hand-carved wood and gold-patterned wallpaper to the gleaming marble, it seems no expense was spared when designing Punjab Grill, the first statewide outpost of a luxury chain with locations spanning the globe. The regional Punjab-focused menu is equally dazzling and luxurious, with caviar and gold leaf sprinkled in among other quality ingredients. One, not-to-be-missed favorite is the aloo tikki chaat, which arrives as a towering, boulder-like presentation of crispy potato cake topped with a mashup of lightly roasted Brussels sprouts and fried kale, then dressed with avocado sauce, raspberry chutney, and rosewater-infused yogurt. The drama continues through dessert, with the elegant and eye-catching dark chocolate pistachio gianduja."
What It Is: Located in Cleveland Park, the restaurant’s name is a mashup of “India” and “unique,” and it “has strived to redefine Indian dining in the district,” per the restaurant’s website.
What Our Inspectors Say: “This bi-level beauty isn't afraid of making a splash—envision brightly painted walls hung with Indian-themed art, as well as colorful cushions that add a dose of serotonin. The cooking oscillates between classic and contemporary, but this kitchen truly shines at night when the chef shares favorites from his Indian hometown. Start things off right with samosa chaat tossing those potato-and-pea crispy delights with curried chickpeas, a sweet tamarind sauce and spicy cilantro-chile chutney. Cooked in a tandoor, chicken tikka makhani is then bathed in a tomato- and caramelized-onion gravy, scented with fenugreek and spiced up with ginger. Paneer pasanda is beloved by vegetarians, but for an old-meets-new triumph, go for the cauliflower-Pecorino kulchas.”
What It Is: Diners at Ashok Bajaj's modern Indian eatery in Penn Quarter can view chefs cooking on the tawa (griddle) and sigri (barbecue) through the open kitchen.
What Our Inspectors Say: “With easy access to the metro, this is a good-looking, loud and lively spot that lures all types of diners. Everyone is here for their kitsch-free Indian cuisine and laid-back ambience—both of which are as perfectly suited for a casual night out with friends as they are for a formal dinner with colleagues or festive celebration. It's difficult to live up to the hype, but Rasika turns out several winning dishes. Grab a seat at the back counter for views into the kitchen, which turns out such highlights as crispy palak chaat tossed with raita, tamarind and date chutneys. Then crunchy okra displays a perfect blend of spicy and sour flavors. Match this with top housemade cubes of paneer, skewered with peppers, onions and accompanied by a tangy green sauce.”
What It Is: This is a far cry from your everyday curry house as a great deal of care is taken to coax each dish with enticing flavors.
What Our Inspectors Say: "Soaring ceilings, large windows and a pleasing navy-and-white palette set a distinctly modern tone for the appropriately named Karma Modern Indian. This is a far cry from your everyday curry house as a great deal of care is taken to coax each dish with enticing flavors. Spices are ground on the premises—read about their health benefits in the thoughtful guide on the back of the menu while you wait. The chef-driven menu is at once traditional and contemporary. Lentil salad atop paper-thin cucumber slices is a visual showstopper, while turnip goat, slow cooked with a complex sauce that is equally sweet and spicy, is outstanding. Lobster masala with green and red peppers and beetroot poriyal display the kitchen's dedication to an old-meets-new sensibility."
Hero image courtesy of Punjab Grill/Facebook.