By Priya Konings
Delicious Indian food, which the city is sorely in need of, comes to DC in the form of Zaika, where the cooking is a blend of authentic Indian as well as east-meets-west ideology. The restaurant may not be in DC proper (exact address: 2800 Clarendon Blvd), but Arlington is just a hop, skip, and jump away, especially when you take the Metro.
The venue has indoor and outdoor seating, and you will find classic and modern items rarely available on most Indian restaurant menus. Such items include raj kachori, an appetizer from Calcutta that is made with a fried ball of dough filled with spiced lentils and topped with yogurt and chutneys; spicy turnip soup; soya bean curry; jalapeno naan; olive naan; and even hakka noodles and gobi Manchurian, Indo-Chinese dishes that are popular street snacks in New Delhi.
Classic items dishes featured are the paneer tikka masala, barbequed cheese in a sinfully creamy tomato sauce, richly spiced black lentils called dal makhani; cauliflower topped with saffron (the best ingredient in the world), roasted eggplant with ginger and bell peppers, and vegetables cooked in a tandoor.
For dessert, the restaurant stays old school with pistachio and cardamom ice cream, gulab jamun, and rasmalai.
Drinks-wise, the cocktails are plentiful and Indian-inspired. Martinis are infused with quintessential Indian flavors like mango, pomegranate, ginger, and lychee. Of particular interest is the mumbatini, a vodka martini flavored with curry leaves and chili powder. Of course, you could always elect to be a teetotaler and get the beet lassi. While skipping the alcohol is usually a fail, this savory yogurt drink is so delicious and so beautiful to look it, it is the one exception to the rule that boozy beverages are better.
Order everything that looks good and share with your dining group. Whatever you don’t finish you can take home, and believe me it tastes just as good the next day.