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all photos: Stephanie Breijo

If you enjoy dining out in DC (and who doesn’t?) you are probably well aware of all the jewels in Ashok Bajaj’s restaurant crown (God knows BYT uses any opportunity to rave about Oval Room, 701, Bibiana…) but arguably the most shining of them all is his high-end Indian RASIKA operation. In many years of eating and talking to people about eating in this town I have never heard anything but praise for the food, the service, the wines…. and so it feels only natural that for his first “mini-franchise” he decided to open a second Rasika (this one to be known as RASIKA West End, and the original one expanding it’s name to RASIKA Penn Quarter), this time in a neighborhood still untouched by his restauranteur touch: that little piece of land between Dupont and Foggy Bottom that’s been primed for a great restaurant to come and shake things up for years.

The restaurant will officially open on March 30th, with limited soft-opening reservations being available starting Monday the 26th (and yes, according to the General Manager Atul Narain, aside from the prime 6:30-7:45pm slots, there is still room on the books for the opening week-so hurry). We swung by the bright and shiny new spot yesterday to give you a first look of what to expect:

The interiors were done by James Beard award winning designer Martin Vahtra and, in their playful boldness, bear very little resemblance to the more subdued Penn Quarter digs. In fact-the one thing everyone mentions is that this restaurant will stand on it’s own: a bigger kitchen, a different menu, a proper chef’s table (reservations for this one-still not open), and obviously a more energetic vibe.

As you walk in-there is the bar and lounge area. We were pleased to hear it will have the full menu on offer too and will be seated on a first-come-first-serve basis as well as offered up as a back-up plan for people on the waiting list for the regular reservations.

We spoke to Alexander Carlin, the restaurant manager/sommelier who is excited about the beer selection they’ll have (3 on tap, 5 in bottles, no light beers here, thankyouverymuch) and the pairings which will include both wine, beer AND cocktails leaning heavily on infused vodkas and gins (done by Julia Ebell, formerly of The Gibson). The wine selection promises to be a little more exciting than the usual Indian fare pairings-with, yes, Rieslings and other sweeter wines present, but also roses (especially as the outdoor patio opens) and some other surprises.

Inside-the main dining room is dominated by a stylized interpretation of the Indian Bunyan tree with gorgeous soft lighting placed within it and behind the banquettes. Even during our daytime visit you could see just how fabulous will this place look when the dark falls.

Rasika West End will also offer 2 private dining rooms (one off of the bar area and one adjacent to the main dining room and library themed) as well as the aforementioned chef’s table (for 6) downstairs next to the kitchen. The amount of detail paid to everything is phenomenal and while the menu has not been fully publicly announced yet we have been assured that Chef Vikram Sunderam will offer a lot of his Penn Quarter favorites: black cod, palak chaat, but there will also be new additions such as dori kebabs and a selection of small plates (which are bound to be VERY popular in the bar/lounge/outdoor patio area), and Manish Tiyagi is joining the team as chef de cuisine.

In short: we cannot wait.

RASIKA WEST END is located at 1177 22nd Street NW and as of now, calling 202.637.1222 or going to open table is your best bet to make a reservation, while the official website is being finalized.

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