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The Early Word on Choolaah Indian BBQ

“I love that the fast-casual food scene has brought out the best of masala and samosas.”

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Choolaah Indian BBQ [Choolah/Yelp]
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Before 2016 wrapped, Fairfax’s Mosaic District landed a new ethnic food option in Choolaah Indian BBQ.

Choolaah modernizes the 5,000-year-old Indian cooking tradition called “tandoori,” in which food is prepped in front of eaters’ eyes. The centerpiece of the 4,000-square-foot restaurant is a set of custom-built tandoor clay ovens that grill food at 700 degrees to lock in flavors. It’s the second location for the brand, which debuted in Cleveland in 2014.

Featured dishes, which integrate imported Indian spices, include chicken tikka masala, black lentil daal, lamb meatball wraps, samosa chaat, salads, naan breads, and kulfi ice cream. There’s also loads of gluten-free and vegetarian options at the ready (luckily, the lengthy menu is color-coded).

Read on to hear what customers are saying, just six weeks into its opening.

The Poultry News: Facebooker Anne Raamot O'Brien thought the chicken was “super tender, the mint sauce fantastic! We will definitely be back!” Yelper Jasmine A.’s chicken BBQ bowl with rice, naan, and yellow lentil dal “has a nice char from the grill. Very flavorful and not too salty.” Facebooker Cassidy Jellison “really enjoyed” the chicken tikka masala, while Twitter user @FLand2CT says it’s one of “the top five things” he’s ever had. “Yum.” [Facebook, Yelp, Twitter]

The Fast-Casual Comparison News: Yelper Gretchen F. equates it to “Indian Chipotle” in that “you can pick your type of rice, protein (including salmon and paneer cheese!), naan, and sauce, and it's all served up delicious and hot for you.” Honestly, Though loves that the fast casual food scene “has brought out the best of masala and samosas.” [Yelp, Honestly, Though]

The Kid-Friendly News: Instagrammer says hits included the naan cheese pizza and space-age soda machine “with every flavor imaginable,” as well as a “‘hand jacuzzi’ for your hygienic convenience, which not only leaves your hands sparkly clean in 12 seconds flat but actually has the children begging to wash them.” [Instagram]

The Decor News: Yelper LanChi N. says it’s “very clean, kinda funky but fun and has a bit of whimzy. I like that it’s well lit versus the usual darker Indian restaurants.” Leen B. liked the “industrial design, the books hanging down the table, the futuristic looking wall by the entrance, and the glass window to the kitchen,” while Kartik V. described the decor as “colorful and largely inspired by a modern take on Indian culture.” [Yelp]

The Must-Try Mango Lassi News: Yelper David I. says “this variation wasn't too sweet and it was perfect for cooling my mouth after I accidentally put too much hot sauce in my bowl. Yelper Vandad C. instructs, “if you've never had lassi before make sure you try it, it's like Persian doogh. They have both sweet and salty lassi.” [Yelp]

The Cue The Barbecue News: Blogger Honestly, Though “stuck to what the hype has centered on: The BBQ bowls. And honestly, it's where it's at. Their bowls consist of a bed of white/brown rice topped with meat of choice (tofu + veggies for me!). Then masala on the side (my fave is the chickpea masala) + naan bread.” Zagat’s Rina Rapuano just named Choolaah a top 5 new BBQ spot in the D.C. area, and she’s a fan of its BBQ bowls with meats “marinated in flavorful Indian spices.” [Honestly, Though, Zagat]

Choolaah Indian BBQ

2911 Mosaic District, Suite 100, Fairfax, VA 22031