Almost 30 years after restaurateur Ashok Bajaj introduced the Bombay Club to a city whose most eloquent restaurants primarily spoke French, Washingtonians are still savoring the multicultural expressions of his creativity. The youngest member of the critically acclaimed Knightsbridge Restaurant Group is Bindaas, celebrating its first year of serving inspired Indian street food on Thursday, August 10.
Like its award-winning siblings — a roster that includes fine-dining standbys Rasika, the Oval Room, and 701 Restaurant— Bindaas is charming critics and the dining public alike. Under the direction of James Beard Award-winning chef Vikram Sunderam, the kitchen dispatches artful renditions of Indian snacks, small plates, and comfort foods.
Bindaas occupies a former wine bar and American-style café Bajaj originally planted in Cleveland Park. It routinely has a supply-and-demand imbalance, with more would-be diners than available space. To resolve this, a second, larger Bindaas is opening in the West End this October.
Take us back to your initial inspiration for Bindaas
Ashok Bajaj: Cleveland Park had slowed down. The Ardeo + Bardeo space could accommodate something new. There’s more competition from other neighborhoods now. Cleveland Park is no longer drawing so many people from other parts of the city. Bindaas is a new kind of cuisine and a catalyst to re-energize the dining scene. It was intended to help revive the area.
Where does it fit into the evolution of your restaurant group and D.C. dining overall?
AB: Bindaas serves updated street food. It contributes to what [RAMW president] Kathy Hollinger said the other night, that D.C. has become a first-class dining destination. Bindaas adds a new option to the mix. By serving a different type of food in an inviting atmosphere, we’re supporting D.C.’s reputation for quality and innovative dining across the spectrum, from street food to white tablecloths.
What most surprised you in the first year?
AB: We believed in the concept, but were surprised to find a line outside on the day we opened. We got high reviews and stars from the Washington Post and Washingtonian. We’re seeing that people who used to go for American or continental food are now making a place like Bindaas their first choice.
You’re going to be busy in October
AB: It’s exciting to open the second Bindaas in Foggy Bottom because it’s a larger space that can attract students and business people for lunch, and residents for dinner. The location and design are something to look forward to. The menu will be a little bigger, adding some roadside sandwiches and curries. At the same time, our Rasika cookbook will be released on Tuesday, October 10, so we’ll have a lot to share early this fall.
This interview has been edited and condensed.