Rammy Award-winning restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has chosen to go bigger and broader at the new Bindaas he’s unveiling Monday, November 6 — an evolution that might never have happened if he’d begun experimenting with Indian street food in Foggy Bottom as originally planned.
Bajaj tells Eater that he looked into planting the original Bindaas in the exact same neighborhood (2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) — with its proximity to meal-seeking World Bank workers, International Monetary Fund employees, and George Washington University students — a while back. But at that point the landlord wanted too much in rent. So he shipped it to growing hospitality graveyard Cleveland Park, which Bajaj said desperately needed a shot in the arm.
“I’m glad I opened it when I did,” Bajaj says of the critically acclaimed run the neighborhood eatery has enjoyed in the former Bardeo space.
A year later, he’s returned to the hospitality scene he always had in mind for Bindaas with a proven product, a fresh look, and a handful of new menu items.
The latest addition to the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Bombay Club, Rasika, Oval Room, among others) features a dedicated bar — think: $12 drinks including tequila sweetened by tamarind-honey puree, or saffron-infused rum cut with spiced lemon-lime syrup — two communal tables that flank the open kitchen, and a funky looking dining room. According to Bajaj, the decor is intended to mimic “diners and cafes in cosmopolitan cities across India.”
Striking photos (Indian women assembled at a wedding; travelers on camelback crossing in front of the Himalayas; a ceremonial procession featuring elephants decked out in colorful garb) and curious paintings (replicas of street graffiti; a portrait of an Indian woman sporting a four-fingered ring that reads “boom”; a towering image of an Indian strongman) are sprinkled throughout the 3,500-square-foot locale.
Wicker-backed chairs and giant baskets recast as light fixtures contribute to the casual feel.
James Beard Award-winning chef and newly minted cookbook author Vikram Sunderam has expanded upon the rolls, kebabs, and snacks offered at the Bindaas in Cleveland Park (which is staying put, by the way). New menu items include: a fried chicken sandwich with beet-tomato chutney ($10); butternut squash uttapam ($9); and a pair of “roadside” curries featuring chicken ($14) or rotating vegetables ($12).
“It’s my 11th restaurant. I hope it will be the lucky one,” Bajaj jokes.
The anticipated hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. The new Bindaas is tentatively scheduled to open to the public Monday, November 6.