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The Early Word on Ashok Bajaj's Latest, Rasika West End

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R. Lopez

In late March, Ashok Bajaj opened Rasika West End, a spinoff of his insanely popular Penn Quarter restaurant. The new location has a totally different feel and a slightly different menu from the four-star Rasika Penn Quarter, so the main question from the early diners seems to be: Is Rasika West End a suitable substitute for the Penn Quarter original? Not that a second location has made snagging a table at Rasika easy all of a sudden — word is Rasika West End is already fairly booked up, too. So let's take a look at the early word.

The Critic News: Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema filed a First Bite on the new Rasika location this week and inevitably compares it to the original, well known as one of his favorite spots in town: "It's hard to find anything amiss in the food at Rasika No. 1. In contrast, its spinoff has yet to make nan as well, or send out a pork vindaloo with meat that isn't overcooked. But just because the younger version has some hiccups doesn't mean it isn't off to a distinctive start." [WaPo]

The Good News: A Don Rockwell commenter visited during the soft opening and reports: "The space is beautiful...i was at the bar in the front, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows. I'm happy to report that the Palak Chaat is as good as I remember it from my last experience at the original Rasika. Can't compare my Chicken Kolhapuri...a new dish for me...but the chicken with red chile/cinnamon/cardamom (going by memory, might not be entirely accurate) was excellent. The only disappointment was a decent, but unexciting rice pudding." [Don Rockwell]

The Great News: EatMore DrinkMore has a lot of great things to say about Rasika West End: "Normally when I give first thoughts on a newly opened restaurant I am careful to say something like, “well, with some time they should work out the kinks.” I’m happy to say I won’t be needing to use that phrase in this post. Nearly everything, with the exception of the delivery of our naan order after our entrees were pretty much finished, was perfect." [EatMore DrinkMore]

More Good News: The Georgetown Dish files a relentlessly positive review: "Same superb quality in a sizzling, light-filled space." [Georgetown Dish]

The Bad Rasika Penn Quarter Comparison News: Yelpers, of course, were all over the Tale of Two Rasikas: "Perhaps the worst Indian meal in D.C., utterly unlike Rasika Penn Qtr.  While the chicken in the chicken pista korma was tender, it floated in a cafeteria-style mashed potato gravy that had no hint of the supposed pistachios, mace, coriander, etc.  Unbelievably tasteless!  And the goat biryani was tough, dry, one-dimensional.  Even the mango shrimp appetizer wanted flavor (mango?).  There's something drastically wrong in this supposedly upscale kitchen that turns out such sub-par fare." [Yelp]

The Good Rasika Penn Quarter Comparison News: This Yelper came to a different conclusion: "I didn't think it was possible to top the first Rasika but Rasika West End does.  The food is just as amazing, service impeccable, and the space is even more beautiful - very airy and modern.  Perennial favorites are crispy spinach, mango shrimp, scallop appetizer, chicken tikka.  The best seat in the house is the blue booth in the center of the main dining area.  As usual, Atul keeps the place efficient and elegant.  I heart Rasika and Rasika West End." [Yelp]

More Great News: The InTowner has got nothing but raves: "By this time, a few weeks after its soft opening, Rasika West End has likely become the very hottest restaurant in all of food-mad DC. Like its sister restaurant, Rasika, in Penn Quarter, this glitzy-sparkly Rasika features delectable contemporary Indian dishes, a culinary artist’s take on northern and southern Indian recipes with very elegant tweaks ... Add to that the allure of the new Rasika’s décor: ultra modern, with the dining space divided by clever 'walls' and by the front windows, mockups of a mogul’s carriage that provide somewhat private seating." [InTowner]

The Twitter News: Count freelance writer David Hagedorn among the early diners, tweeting, "Smashing dinner @ Rasika West End, where IMF chief Christine Lagarde came by our table to thank her server on her way out. Lovely gesture." Julie Albert, private dining director for Robert Wiedmaier's restaurant, also stopped in early: "Great dinner last night at Rasika @csiwashington New spot in theWest End is awesome" [Twitter]

Rasika West End

1190 New Hampshire Avenue Northwest, , DC 20037 (202) 466-2500 Visit Website