Ultra-luxurious Indian restaurant Punjab Grill is reopening after a pandemic pause with a new identity and a new chef. The team behind Punjab Grill just announced plans to revive the flashy Penn Quarter space (427 11th Street NW) on Tuesday, May 31, as Rania.
The new name means “Queen” in Hindi and Sanskrit, which is appropriate considering the restaurant retained its palace-like decor. The 4,700-square-foot showpiece from international restaurateur Karan Singh drew lots of attention when it opened in 2019, thanks to ornate details like white mother-of-pearl inlay everywhere, a 40-foot chiseled piece of solid pink sandstone spanning the length of the bar, and a private dining room surrounded with 150,000 hand-laid mirrors.
While Rania will look familiar, a new chef is at the helm (Punjab Grill’s chef Jaspratap “Jassi” Bindra recently decamped to Houston to open a luxe Indian restaurant there).
Rania’s executive chef is Chetan Shetty, who recently cooked at acclaimed New Delhi restaurant Indian Accent that added an outpost in NYC. Shetty will guide diners through a multi-course dinner of inventive Indian cuisine that goes way beyond the expected (as in dishes like braised lamb shank accented with spinach, coconut foam, ghoda masala spice blend, and mustard frills).
Unlike Punjab Grill, Rania will focus on prix-fixe menu of either three courses ($75) or four courses ($90), with a Chef’s Tasting menu ($125) to debut soon. An a la carte menu will be available at the restaurant’s Sundowner Bar.
At Rania, meals begins with a first course like the sculptural shiso leaf chaat, flavored with white pea ragda, green mango and mint. Entrees include homemade paneer accented by spring peas and pecorino, or beef short ribs with saffron nihari, charred broccoli rabe, and pickled mustard.
Diners who opt for the prix-fixe menu can add on cocktails or wine pairings, with April Busch — previously of NYC’s two-Michelin star restaurant Atera — leading the wine program.
Shetty plans to import rare spices from India, which will punch up the dinner menu and cocktail program at Rania. Drinks also lean into Indian spirits and fruit from local farms. The Ananas Kolada employs a spiced rum blend, kaffir coconut cream, zerish cordial, and sour pineapple, while a Desi Gimlet features yogurt, Ketel One, dry vermouth, lime, butter syrup, and orange bitters.
Punjab Grill’s much-hyped ‘Sheesh Mahal’ — its palace-of-mirrors private dining room hidden to the side — will return this summer at Rania as the chic setting for a Chef’s Table menu, Hermes plate ware and all. Diners can make a reservation on their own for the communal experience, or fully reserve the space for parties of eight diners or more.
Rania will be open for dinner service Tuesday through Sunday, and reservations are strongly encouraged. Rania accepts walk-ins at the Sundowner Bar and as availability in the dining room allows.