After opening two hit Bombay Street Food restaurants in D.C. in the past nine months, restaurateur Asad Sheikh is turning his focus to a specialty of New Delhi. Sheikh has signed a lease downtown (818 18 Street NW) to open a fast-casual place that serves only one dish: butter chicken.
Butter Chicken Company will serve $12 trays of butter chicken — a mild, creamy tomato curry full of marinated and tandoor-grilled boneless chicken thighs. Each portion will come with sides of chana masala (chickpeas), saag (spinach), and plain or garlic naan. Sheikh says classic butter chicken is mild, so the sides will ratchet up the spice as a complement.
“The most popular dish in Indian restaurants is butter chicken,” Sheikh says, claiming that’s the case around the world. “If you don’t have butter chicken in Indian restaurants, it’s not complete.”
Formerly a Brown Bag sandwich shop, the space seats 40 and has an outdoor patio. Targeting a September 30 opening, Butter Chicken Company will open at 11:30 a.m. and sell only 300 servings per day. Sheikh says whether that takes two hours or extends into dinner, he won’t make more than that.
“We have to come in the morning and make sauce fresh every single day,” he explains. “There is no leftovers.”
For the new project, Sheikh is partnering with chef Praveen Kumar, who used to work at Curry Mantra and London Curry House, two of the well-reviewed businesses Sheikh founded in Northern Virginia before selling them to invest in a move to D.C.
Over the weekend Sheikh said Kumar was traveling to India’s capital city of New Delhi, the birthplace of butter chicken. Kumar is specifically gathering intel from legendary restaurant Moti Mahal, which invented the dish in the 1950s. According to Sheikh, Kumar has been warmly received but isn’t allowed in the kitchen.
“They are happy to share what makes it special, and we can talk to their cooks, but they don’t want us to come and work with them,” Sheikh says.
Sheikh says Kumar will also study butter chicken recipes around the Delhi region, and he’ll be traveling there himself this week.