DC Day 1: The Passenger & Rasika

One of my very best friends in the whole world fell in love and moved to D.C. a few years ago. Kandace is as passionate about food as I am, so she’s a perfect dining companion for me, and her new home base is a fabulous place to embark on many an eating adventure!

A couple months back, I started planning a trip to visit her, and in the process, I turned to some of my DC-knowledgeable acquaintances on Twitter for recommendations. With all of them being food writers or bloggers, more than half of them currently living in the DC area, a few having lived there in the recent past, and others that visit there often, I knew they were a group I could trust. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to partake in some really great meals, right?

Well, even knowing where the recs were coming from, I was still blown away by how truly exquisite they all were!

There is so much to share with you that I’m going to break this down into three separate posts, one for each day I was there. So now sit back and enjoy as I take you through the evening of my arrival in the nation’s capital!

“Violet Eyes” at The Passenger
Vodka, Creme de Violette, Lemon, Maraschino

First up, pre-dinner cocktails at The Passenger. I’ll admit that when we entered the bar, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. In my reading, I had envisioned something like our Patterson House, but this place was definitely far from that vibe. This was a super casual, laid-back joint with a short cocktail list scribbled on a chalkboard. Yep, pretty much opposite of what I was expecting.

Well, now that I’m back home and have had a chance to do a little further research, I realize that what I was reading about and visualizing was the Columbia Room, which is the reservation only inner bar of The Passenger.  Oops. Guess I missed that small detail. Oh well, just gives us reason to go there again on my next visit!

“Ricky Bobby” at The Passenger
Gin, Ginger Beer, Lime, Bitters

Of course that little slip-up didn’t detract us from having a splendid time while consuming some delicious drinks (plus some of the best olives I’ve ever tasted) and I would highly recommend The Passenger for a casual night out!

The Passenger
1021 7th Street Northwest
Washington D.C., DC 20001
(202) 393-0220


After a couple of cocktails, it was time to head a few blocks away for our dinner reservations at Rasika. As we entered the dining room, we were immediately struck by the delicious aromas of Indian spices as well as the gorgeous space. Oh, this was going to be good.

Upon perusal of the menu, we knew we were going to have a tough time ordering. Everything sounded so fantastic but we were scared we’d play it too safe, sticking to things we knew, causing us to miss out on some wonderful dishes that we might not be so familiar with.

Luckily our waiter arrived shortly with great news and the perfect solution to our problem– the restaurant offers a 4-course and 6-course tasting menu. Decision made. We’ll have the 4-course with wine pairings, please!

our amuse-bouche: lentils on biscuit with tamarind, mint chutney, mango

The server described our first bite, our amuse, as a traditional Indian snack that can often be found at roadside stands. Wish we had some roadside stands selling these things around here! I could’ve eaten like three more of these, but thankfully that wasn’t an option because it turns out our feast ahead was almost more food than I could handle.


First Course: Palak Chaat

Crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind, date chutney

Next was the “spinach salad”, the Palak Chaat. This dish was  utterly amazing. The spinach leaves were flash fried and served warm, practically melting in my mouth. The cool creamy yogurt and sweet date chutney were a delightful contrast. So unusual and tantalizing, we found ourselves talking about this salad throughout the entire meal, and even the couple at our neighboring table chimed in with their appreciation of it.

It left such an impression on me that I’ve been scouring the internet the past few days trying to figure out their secret and will be attempting to recreate it myself some time in the very near future.


Second Course: Calamari Chili Garlic
onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, lemon juice

On to our second course, which according to the menu was only supposed to be mussels. I’m not sure if our waiter just liked us a whole lot or what, but we also got calamari, which delights me. I’d have hated to miss out on this particular calamari, because it wasn’t fried as we often find it, but instead sauteed in a zesty sauce of onions, garlic, ginger, green chili and lemon juice. If I were to come back to Rasika again, I could probably make a meal of only the Palak Chaat and this calamari and be content.

Second Course: Mussels Moilee
Ginger, green chili, coconut

Alongside the calamari was a big bowl of steaming mussels. With a basket of warm naan on the table, this coconut sauce had no chance of survival. Every last drop was sopped and mopped.

Third Course:

Bhindi Amchoor – Sliced okra, dry mango powder

Chestnut Fava Bean Korma – favas, chesnuts, guava, cardamom

Chicken Makhani- broiled chicken, tomato, fenugreek

Lamb Do Pyaza – lamb, pearl onions, peppercorns, whole red chili

Notice that I tried to keep my portions relatively small. Of course that didn’t really help so much since I went back for seconds. Oh, and not to mention my inability to resist using more of the warm naan to soak up these delectable sauces.


Chestnut Fava Bean Korma up close

If you were reading my blog around this time last year, you might remember that I fell in love with fava beans while traveling through China. Love I tell you.

Fourth Course: Dessert
Apple Jallebi, Gulab Jamun, Cardamom Ice Cream

As you can imagine, by the time dessert arrived, I was stuffed beyond belief. It took every bit of energy I could muster to even take a small bite of each. Since I’m not a big fan of pastry-type desserts, the Apple Jallebi and the Gulab Jamun didn’t really strike my fancy. However, the cardamom ice cream was incredible! Just when I thought I could not handle another ounce of food, I made room for this, savoring every last creamy drop.

Just in case you haven’t figured it out by now, Rasika has already secured it’s spot on my Top 10 list for 2011!

633 D St NW
Washington, DC 20004-2904
(202) 637-1222