Butter Chicken Company opens today a block away from the Farragut West Metro station downtown, marking the first trial for an experimental service model that calls for the restaurant to open at 11:30 a.m. and close whenever it has sold its 300th tray of the namesake curry.
Owner Asad Sheikh’s original plan was to sell nothing but butter chicken, naan, saag paneer, and chana masala at the restaurant, but he’s budged a little in response to demand. Wide, custom-built copper pots from the Indian city of Jaipur will also hold chicken tikka masala and vegetable biryani from behind a hot line.
Every tray has room for an entree-sized portion and two sides. No matter the configuration of dishes, each one is $11. The trays come with a piece of naan (plain or garlic). Cups of yogurt-based raita, a spicy chutney, and a mint-heavy green chutney are all free.
In the months since Sheikh announced the project, an outgrowth of the two Bombay Street Food restaurants he brought to D.C. over the past 11 months, he says he’s been bombarded with calls for chicken tikka masala in emails and even notes posted to the front door. Serving a meat-free biryani, full of carrots, peas, and fried onions, helps Sheikh appeal to vegetarians.
Sheikh has stocked a refrigerated display case with Indian sodas he’s acquired through a distributor in New York. There’s Kashmira, a salty and masala-spiced carbonated drink that Sheikh says is good
for digestion, and two sweeter sodas owned by Coca-Cola: Coke-like Thums Up and lemon-lime Limca. There will also be mango lassis. As soon as the restaurant’s liquor license clears, Sheikh will start selling two beers: Taj Mahal and Tikka Gold, a German Pilsner with an Indian name that’s brewed in Belgium.
Sheikh laid out the 40-seat interior of the restaurant to feel like a sibling to Bombay Street Food. Regulars of the quickly popular locations in Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill will recognize lettering filled with light bulbs that spells out “BCC” behind the hot line. Colorful photo murals installed on the walls include shots of Anthony Bourdain, Gandhi, and Kundan Lal Gujral, the famous Indian chef widely credited with inventing butter chicken.
Butter Chicken Company opens at 11:30 a.m. six days per week (closed Sundays) and closes when it sells out.