Washington D.C.'s Indique: First-rate Indian food

Decor plus menu plus fancy cocktails promise an elegant experience

Rey Lopez

After chef K. N.Vinod (pictured) and his partner opened up two Bombay Bistros, it wasn't until 2002 that Vinod opened Indique.

Washington, DC has become a magnet for attracting outstanding restaurants and a diversity of cuisines. But long before the local food explosion, Indian chef K. N. Vinod—who hails from the state of Kerala in India— had really set apart his native cuisine from all other Indian competitors, especially with his high-end restaurant, Indique.

That said, even long before the opening of Indique in Cleveland Park in 2002, chef K. N.Vinod and his partner, Surfy Rahman, opened Bombay Bistro in Rockville, Maryland, and then a second Bombay Bistro in Fairfax, Virginia. But chef Vinod decided to notch up his native cuisine several levels with the opening of Indique, fusing the two words India and Unique.

Any food lover passionate about experiencing authentic Indian food will want to spend time at Indique. Recently renovated and relaunched so that the interior sparkles even more than in its former life, the two-story, light-filled restaurant offers a choice of seating areas, new menus including a vibrant new spice-infused creative cocktail program, handcrafted artwork visible throughout interior dining areas, two al fresco dining areas — patio and balcony, but if you opt for upstairs, you can peek outside at the passersby strolling along on Upper Connecticut.

Of course, most patrons will be far too busy indulging in Indique’s amazing eats, ones that chef Vinod has carefully tweaked—authentic flavors remain but some may be wrapped up in semolina puffs (spiced shrimp, tomatoes, and onions with chasers) or come on a fermented rice pancake (pickled pork belly with mustard, fenugreek, coriander, coconut milk, plus more). Even his lobster-shrimp bisque bears no resemblance to the American version: his spicy version contains ginger, coconut, and curry leaves.

Where to begin? With cocktails first. What about the Mumbai Mule, a seemingly potent drink with two types of rum, spicy ginger, and lime. Or there’s the quirky-sounding Shantrum with white rum, coconut water, and lime. Bar choices also include wines by the glass or bottle, and for nonalcoholic sips, why not masala chai?

As patrons scan the main course selections, it is easy to want to order at least six dishes, some from his creative recipes, some from the classic fare, and some from his native Kerala, plus several tandoori dishes. If you favor lamb in any form, the braised lamb shank is a knockout. But if that’s not your choice, why not the shrimp curry made with coconut milk and with curry leaves. Or order both! Tandoori dishes include two chicken dishes, though one sounds rather amusing: chicken cheese kebab, which comes as chicken breast with cream cheese and yogurt.

Chef Vinod’s classics include two lamb dishes: lamb roganjosh and lamb vindaloo, the latter a typically fiery dish that inspires you to sip beer and dunk Indian roti into the curry sauce. Two chicken dishes and two classic vegetarian offerings complete that part of the menu.

But if you are vegetarian, do not despair. Chef Vinod has prepared six vegetarian entrées, including a baby eggplant dish and another that focuses on chickpeas, onions, and potatoes. You can also select a vegetarian dish from Chef’s hometown menu selection, an entrée called Shallot Yuca, with shallots, ginger, coconut oil, and curry leaves. Other hometown dishes include a fish curry and a Kerala Shepherd’s Pie with lamb, coriander, curry leaves, and coconut.

And the breads! Yes, the breads, with garlic naan, onion kulcha and a mint paratha—imagine a layered bread with mint, and then think of how refreshing that must be. Winding down the meal, desserts put a sweet ending to your exotic experience. On offer is mango rice pudding and mango ice cream, but what about a slice of mango cheesecake! You can also select a mustard mango chili sundae, which promises to be a bit fiery, or a dish of typical Indian ice cream, called kulfi.

But regardless of your meal choices, you will leave Indique convinced you have experienced a little slice of the Subcontinent in a very swanky setting—Indique is one of DC’s most beguiling ethnic restaurants.

Click here for more info on Indique.

For more Washington DC dining and travel news, click here. Alexandra Greeley is the D.C. Restaurant Editor and a food writer for The Daily Meal.

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