Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rasika on Christmas Eve

Michael and I headed to Rasika after a hectic day of pre-departure activities for our traditional night-before-vacation meal. We always look forward to a great meal at Rasika and happily this year was no exception.

The streets of Washington were empty as we drove up…we found a parking spot right around the corner – but inside the restaurant was as warm and bustling as on any other night. We were greeted cordially and shown to a small table in the back corner of the main room.

In a somewhat adventurous spirit, we decided to try some new things this time rather than relying on our old standbys, although of course it was not possible to skip the awesome crispy spinach. We supplemented this with some sort of cauliflower appetizer and also the crab cakes (it is hard for me to give details as the only real complaint I have about Rasika is that the menus – both food and drink – are printed in impossibly small type for those of us entering our second half century, and not just we semi-elderly if my younger dining companions can be believed.

The cauliflower was outstanding. This is the second great cauliflower dish I have had recently, both at Indian restaurants, and I must say it is making me rethink my lifelong loathing of cauliflower. This particular dish was in a very spicy brownish/reddish sauce or coating, sprinkled with small sliced green chilies (one of which I made the mistake, rather absent-mindedly, of eating.) The texture was almost that of a shrimp tempura or tender chicken, but with a hint of underlying sweetness (like shrimp) that set off the spicyness.

Michael also loved the crabcakes. I thought they were good also, but being a son of the Chesapeake, my palate has been trained that the less you do to crabcakes, the better. This meat was also flakier and less chunky than blue crab, I suspect maybe Jonah or rock crab…not that there’s anything wrong with that, as they say. Well, for non-traditional crabcakes they were very, very good.

For main courses Michael had the lamb gucci korma and I had the duck. The duck was superb, small slices fanned out on a plate with a rich sauce and accompanied by delicious orange flavored rice (that Michael, uncharacteristically, requested repeat tastes of) and caramelized orange peel. The lamb was also delicious, in a very subtle light tan creamy sauce and falling apart in tender chunks that tasted of the essence of lamb, with a few morels strewn in the sauce for good measure.

As sides I also ordered a smoked eggplant dish that was sensational, a rich brown mound that was kind of the consistency and pretty much the appearance of a pile of refried beans, but very complex and subtly spicy. I keep ordering these exotic dishes hoping that they will change Michael’s attitude toward eggplant (similar to mine about cauliflower). I think I am making progress…he did go for a second helping of what turned out to be a very generous portion…but progress is slow. We also had some cucumber raita...well, I did, for some reason couldn’t get Michael interested in it, but it did nicely cutting the spice of the duck and eggplant.

With dinner we drank a very pleasant New Zealand chardonnay from the Martinborough region, one of the less pricey choices ($52) from Rasika’s extensive and rather expensive list. Delightful, on the crisp side like a decent white Burgundy and went very well with the food.

Michael was in the mood for something sweet afterwards. He thought he was ordering a chocolate samosa, probably for my benefit, but ended up with an apple jaleh which is a kind of caramelized apple beignet with cardamom ice cream. Tasty, but not something that I’ll have dreams about later.

As usual dinner at Rasika was no bargain, a tab of $165 before tip, but we did order generously: 3 apps, 2 mains, 2 side dishes, and dessert. And the quality of the cooking was, as always, superb. Service was, as always, polite and professional.

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