Writing about Pappe is hard. Sometimes when I write about food, it all opens up for me and I know exactly what I’m going to say. Whether I liked the meal or not, I can put my fingers on the keyboard and they fly faster than my mind can keep up with them. Best case scenario, I know exactly where something fits. Worst case scenario? I fuck around until I can convince myself I wrote something worthwhile. I rack my brain for ideas and I pour over my notes like they’re fragments from the Voynich manuscript.
Writing about Pappe isn’t hard because it’s bad, it’s because it’s so good. And because I’m so deeply out of my league. It’s the kind of meal that makes you wish you knew so much more about the food, because you know you’re punching well above your weight class. I don’t have the proper words to tell you why my meal at Pappe was so enjoyable. Part of that is because I’m no expert when it comes to Indian food, but the other reason is because at some point I just kicked back and tried to enjoy the experience. I stopped taking notes for a second, stopped trying to be analytical about my reactions to the dishes and I just ate like a human.
So if you’re a normal, non-note taking human who is just trying to enjoy a meal at Pappe, here’s what I recommend. 1. Listen to your server they know exactly what they’re talking about and their recommendations are on point and 2. Get as many half portions as you can. Pappe shines when you can bounce from one dish to the next and get a full spectrum of their flavors. All of their vegetarian dishes can be ordered as side dishes, so load up on those and get one or two non-vegetarian dishes to go along with them. You won’t regret getting more food. It’ll all taste just as good for breakfast the next day.
First off, while the samosas are delicious, bread-y and fragrant pastries of joy, if you’re only ordering one appetizer (and you should, there is so much more to eat) skip them and go for the Aloo Papdi Chaat. A tower of chickpeas, thin pastry, cumin yogurt and a tamarind chutney, it’s sweet, savory and refreshing while showing off a variety of textures. Get messy with it, dissect it and dig in.
For the headliner, the entree, get something serious. The Chicken Pista Korma, featuring moist chicken and pistachios is great, but if you want to go all the way, go for the Vindaloo, made with spices that have been marinating in vinegar all day long. It’s a powerful dish that was the catalyst for the restaurant, so you’re in good hands with this one.
For your vegetable side dishes, hit up the Malai Kofta with it’s delectable paneer dumplings that melt right in your mouth, the Channa Pindi with the wonderfully spicy chickpeas and all of the Daal because lentils are perfect and they work so well with a chewy slice of garlic naan. The vegetarians dishes are the main draw here, you don’t want to skip them.
Need something to wash it all down with? The Cardamom Gimlet is a great choice that is sure to please gin drinks and non gin drinkers alike. After all, if you want to go all the way and dive straight into the menu, you might as well go hard.
Pappe is located at 1317 14th Street NW