Rasika West - The Jewel in the Culinary Crown An Epicurean "Passage to India"March 10, 2015
By Claudette Veronica Ferron, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
It was a glorious epicurean “Passage to India” when the Greater Washington, D.C., Bailliage embarked on their sybaritic sojourn to Washington’s “Jewel in the Crown”– the critically acclaimed Rasika-West End Restaurant. As promised, at Chef Vikram Sunderam’s (James Beard Foundation Best Chef Mid-Atlantic 2014) chic and modern Indian restaurant, exquisite and aesthetic flavors exploded and preconceptions of Indian food were shattered as palates were mesmerized. In the comfort of the restaurant’s contemporary, private dining sanctuary, members and guests of the Bailliage were immersed in the tastes and beauty of nouvelle Indian cuisine unlike any other. Showcasing the aromatic and flavorful gastronomy of the “land of spice,” ever the Washington, D.C., guru of Indian cuisine, Chef Sunderam, displayed the extraordinary cultural textures and rich exotic diversity of modern India.
Starting with the passed hors d’oeuvres, diners embarked upon an herbaceous gastronomic adventure, touring the most divine and fragrant delicacies. From the perfectly prepared Crispy Mango Shrimp with a spicy, piquant mango sauce, to the sweet and earthy Avocado Wada, the succulent Seekh (Lamb) Kebab, and the delightfully addictive crisp Green Peas Samosas, member and guests were welcomed into an extraordinary epicurean experience that captivated the palate. Paired with a celebratory, citrus Crement de Loire Brut, Gaudrelle N.V., the heavenly appetizers were a salubrious prelude to an eagerly awaited gourmet Nirvana. Fortunately, for diners, the passage to their Indian culinary paradise was less than a “Hundred Foot Journey” but equally, if not more rewarding. The feast was also made more decadent, as each diner was attended to by a cadre of attentive wait-staff.
The singularly delicious Palaak Chaat of city-wide gastronomic fame, with its impossibly light and crisp baby spinach, delicate sweet yogurt, tangy tamarind and date chutney, led the main courses with a mouthwatering burst of perfectly balanced sweet and savory flavors. Daring to follow the spectacular first course, the second course was a triumph. Achari Chicken Tikka, juicy grilled chicken, bright onion seed, malt vinegar and fresh mint chutney with Foie Gras Galouti – succulent smoked lamb, rich cashew nuts, extravagant saffron and tawa paratha – Indian flatbread, quickened diners appetites for more luscious Asian delights.
The third course, a luxurious Black Cod with a luscious coconut sauce, masterfully blended fresh dill, honey and cheddar, carried member and guests away to thoughts of the languid rivers and pastoral vistas of ancient yogis. The culinary Taj Mahal and homage to the love of all things Indian was presented in the superlative fourth course medley which included delectable Jardalu Gosht – a savory lamb chop with rich apricots and delicately fried straw potatoes; Baingan Mirch Ka Salan, an opulent eggplant dish with an extraordinary coconut, peanut, and sesame seed mélange; Dal Dhungaree – earthy smoked lentils with delicious caramelized onions; Cucumber Raita, a cooling cucumber, silky yogurt relish exquisite saffron rice Pulao – an Indian flat bread, a perfect medium for sampling the complex and fragrant sauces. The amazing array of diverse dishes were a tantalizing mosaic of visual artistry, flavors and aromas. The dessert course was an embarrassment of riches, like the exquisite star ruby in the jewel encrusted Imperial Crown of Indian. A silken, mousse-like Mango Pistachio Kulfi and seductive Chocolate Samosa, completed the rapturous repast.
These exotic gastronomic indulgences of culinary delight were paired with a Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese Riesling 2011, a spicy, ripe wine with a gardenia and lilac perfume, and a playful fruity, Mosel Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese, Trocken Riesling. Presented en suite, the pairings gave diners the opportunity to sample the wines throughout the meal, and compare and contrast each wine with each course. Also accompanying the meals were mocktails: refreshing Ginger Limeade, with fresh squeezed lime and house-made ginger syrup; Mango Mocktail, a tropical mango puree with Rose Hip Grenadine and club soda; and a passionate Passion Fruit Punch with passion fruit, pomegranate molasses, rose syrup and club soda – invigorating libations reflecting the rich, complexity and the colors of India.
In its essence the feast was a cultural experience that nourished the epicurean soul – an exploration of the diversity of India, from the cosmopolitan sophistication of New Delhi to the traditional festivals of Mumbai and the artistry of Kolkata. Chef Sunderam’s culinary treatise brilliantly showcased 5000 years of amazing gastronomy, and the birth place of evocative spices that still flavor so much of the world’s cuisine today. Finally, the dinner was a spicy, warming finish to the Bailliage’s winter season and delicious prelude to the blooming of spring.
Next, to welcome spring, the vibrant and growing Bailliage will revel among the blossoms at 1789 Restaurant - one of Washington’s quintessential fine dining establishments, where old-world service and new-world cuisine are decadently wrapped in charm and history. Dining on Executive Chef Samuel Kim’s effusive recreations of classic dishes, members of the Bailliage will join a very long list of famous guests.