Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj's Rasika West End location opens on Friday, March 30th.
How does one improve on perfection? This was the question that well known Washington restaurateur Ashok Bajaj
found himself mulling over, as he planned to launch a companion West End location to the currently wildly successful Penn Quarter-based Rasika
almost a year ago. And with the new, distinctly modern venue scheduled to open next Friday, March 30th, the answers to said question are gradually beginning to emerge.
The exterior of Rasika West End.
The first thing Washingtonians should recognize when stepping into the new 22nd Street venue is that Rasika West End has very much its own identity, when compared to Rasika Penn Quarter (the new name of the existing D Street restaurant). While the original location was bathed in a more conservative shade of red, the new space exudes a more sophisticated and modern atmosphere, with floor-to-ceiling windows, splashes of turquoise on various banquettes and pillows, and dramatically increased seating for 191 (that number jumps past 230 when the elevated patio opens on May 1st).
Main dining area.
While the Washington Post reports
that many of the most popular menu items from the first location, such as the black cod and palak chaat, will also be available at Rasika West End, so too will the new restaurant offer a variety of new menu items, including a selection of dori kebabs from Northern India, courtesy of Group Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam
and Chef de Cuisine Manish Tyagi
Under the tutelage of sommelier Alexander Carlin
, Rasika West End will also offer a wine and cocktail list mostly unique to the new location. The goal being to provide guests with easy access to wines not readily available anywhere else in the city, while simultaneously matching the flavor profiles of the dishes on offer.
“We’re not just Rieslings; we’re not just Alsatians and Germans, which Indian food is generally geared toward,” said Carlin. “We’re doing some fun things with New World [wines] and central coast California.”
A series of private booths in the main dining area will prove popular with couples.
Cocktails will leverage many of the spices readily found in the kitchen below, such as cardamom, ginger, tamarind, and saffron, and be paired with more flavorful spirits, such as gin and bourbon (in contrast to a more neutral vodka base). All in all, cocktail hounds can expect to find a variety of seasonally rotating throwbacks on the beverage program, with a modern Indian twist.
Main dining area.
For Rasika West End’s spacious interior, Bajaj enlisted James Beard Award-winning designer Martin Vahtra
from Projects Design Associates
in New York. The end result is a space subdivided into seven different areas, including the main dining area, two private dining rooms, the chef's table adjacent to the kitchen, the lounge, bar, and outdoor patio.
The bathrooms are walled with penny tile.
A few design elements are worthy of particular note, including the main anigre wood pillar and ceiling of the central dining room, which is intended to represent the national tree of India, the banyan tree, complete with sprawling branches and all.
The wood sculpture above the bar is designed to represent the many arms of Krishna.
Commanding attention above Rasika West End’s bar is a dark wood sculpture, with sharply modern accents. If guests take a more liberal viewpoint, however, they might be able to recognize the symbolism behind the work, with the sculpture’s appendages designed to emulate the 8 arms of the Hindu God Durga.
However, the most intriguing part of the new restaurant probably has to be its private ‘library’. An overflow space for the main dining area, the back room seats 35 amidst a backdrop of hundreds of colorfully bound books. And while the current book selection was randomly chosen more for aesthetic reasons (blue/orange book covers, etc.), Bajaj hopes to add some of his own cookbooks to the shelves lining the walls in the coming weeks to give the space a more personal touch.
The West End just got a whole lot more flavorful…
Rasika West End opens to the general public on Friday, March 30th.
Lunch hours are Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 2:30pm. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 5:30pm to 10:30pm and on Friday and Saturday from 5:00pm to 11:00pm. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Reservations are now being accepted via OpenTable or by calling (202) 466-2500.