Indian Cuisine Soars to Elegant Heights at Rasika RestaurantNovember 5, 2009
By Judith Mazza, Vice Chargée de Presse of the Bailliage of Greater Washington, D. C.
It all began with an exploratory lunch that morphed into a four-hour tasting extravaganza, leading to an extraordinary Chaîne dinner at Rasika Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Chef Vikram Sunderam, whose creative wizardry with Indian food brought accolades from members and guests of the Bailliage of Greater Washington, D. C. this past November, was showered with applause at the end of the meal. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
For those who think that Indian food is not an elegant cuisine, they should have attended the amazing dinner on November 5, 2009. Restricted to less than 30 fortunate Chaîne members and guests, we gathered as the restaurant completed the final touches before we were seated. Appetizers were presented tableside by the efficient and thoughtful serving staff. We began with the reshmi (chicken) kebabs; their silken texture enhanced by the rhubarb chutney. These were followed by the mini paneer shashlik, tender and delicious. The sev puri was complex and interesting and the bhel puri was cleverly presented in miniature cones. These exotic appetizers were the topic of conversation as they were paired with the Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui 2005 and the Riouolo Prosecco.
Chevaliers Anthony Ramdass and Michael McHenry were animatedly discussing the courses with Chevalier d’Honneur Emil Skodon and Dame de la Chaîne Dorothea Skodon. Jessie and Helene Lustig were all smiles as each course continued to delight. You could hear the entire group attempting to deconstruct the meal to understand how the complex flavors we were enjoying were created.
The palak chaat, a flash fried crispy baby spinach salad, anointed with tamarind and yogurt were a favorite of Dame de la Chaîne Melinda Estridge and Vice Chargée de Mission Carol Assmann. Vice Echanson of the Périphérique Bailliage Bob O’Toole was clearly enjoying the camaraderie with Bill Assmann and Argentier David Burka and his wife, Rebecca.
Crispy tawa fish with pressed rice and cilantro mayonnaise was paired with the Seebrich Niersteiner Hipping 2006 Riesling. This course was followed by a seafood trio: a succulent honey ginger diver scallop, a masala crab cake and a perfectly cooked mango shrimp. Dames de la Chaîne Roslyn Wolf and Wendolyn Holland carefully discussed each course with Chester Watson and guests Allan Kam, Rena Hutak and David Luckey. The pairing with the Domaines Schlumberger Saering 2004 Grand Cru Riesling was well done.
The dinner was temporarily interrupted, however, by a wonderful presentation. Bailli Paul Haar presented a Chaîne pewter plate to Chef Sunderam. Bailli Haar had invited restaurateur extraordinaire Ashok Bajaj, owner of Rasika and several other highly regarded Washington restaurants, to be at Rasika when the Chef was to be so honored. We joined in applause in appreciation of both Chef Sunderam and also the accomplishments of Mr. Bajaj.
We then awaited the black cod, which was perfectly accented by the cabbage poriyal and the Saint-Aubin ler Cru 1er Cru Les Combes 2002. Shannon Haar, Dame de la Chaîne Maria Busalacchi and Vice Echanson des Etats-Unis Honoraire Antonio Busalacchi were clearly enjoying the unusual and delicious courses. Chevalier C.W. Gilluly and Dame de la Chaîne Martha Gilluly smiled as they joined in the conversation and discussed the pairings with Bailli Paul Haar.
The tandoori lamb chop served with bhindi amchoor (okra) was perfectly cooked and particularly delicious with the Haan Shiraz Prestige 2002. Although we thought we might not be able to eat another bite, the lobster masala and narangi duck soon were consumed along with a particularly delicious naan and basmati rice. Bailli Paul Haar then delighted the group with a description of our other upcoming events as we awaited the final course, dessert.
The jewel in the crown was a dessert trio of an apple jallebi, a fig walnut kulfi and a carrot halwa, accented by a Taylor Fladgate late bottled vintage Port 2003. Despite the lateness of the hour, and work commitments the next day, the entire group lingered as Chef Sunderam patiently answered our questions about the meal. He showed himself to be a master of Indian cuisine from many different regions of India, and we knew that we had been privileged have eaten at one of the best restaurants in Washington, and especially privileged to have shared that experiences with confreres and guests of the Bailliage of Greater Washington. Vive la Chaîne!