Placeholder on load item actions

Chetan Shetty wastes no time in grabbing customers’ attention in the new Rania.

Your introduction to the successor to Punjab Grill in downtown Washington is a gift from the chef: a fresh rice flour crystal in the shape of a flower, slathered in avocado puree, drizzled with tamarind chutney and glistening with venison. smoked trout. Like the dining room, the snack is sumptuous and a hint of heat and spice to follow in the modern Indian menu.

Tom Sietsema’s 7 favorite places to eat right now

The treatment, achu murukku, is also personal. The sweetly sweet dip is based on something Shetty’s mother made for him when he was a child in Pune, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra — well, keep all the fancy accessories. The chef says his middle-class mother wouldn’t have recognized avocados.

Owner Karan Singh introduced Punjab Grill in 2019 with the goal of elevating the Indian dining experience, a feat achieved in part with a mother-of-pearl marble bar and temple-style booths in the main dining room. Less than a year later, the pandemic hit his party. Singh closed the restaurant to rethink the concept and search “globally” for a new chef. The stars aligned when he learned that Shetty, the executive chef of New York’s acclaimed Indian Accent, was eager to leave the Big Apple and cook his own style of food.

“He has a fantastic pedigree,” Singh says of Shetty, 34, who is also a veteran of the original Indian accent in New Delhi, where I was lucky enough to have dinner. The name of the new chef’s room suits both the decor it inherits and the food it serves. Rania translates to “queen” in Hindi and Sanskrit.

As with so many luxury restaurants now, this one does not accept a la carte. Instead, diners choose three or four courses for $75 and $90, respectively, with a variety of per-course options. Experience has taught me to go big, given the portion sizes (pictures of large appetizers), the appeal of so many dishes, and the fact that a choice of vegetables and bread are included in the format.

Just as enticing as the opening entree is the shiso leaf roe dipped in chickpea batter, deep-fried and perched atop a drift of sour cream and chopped white peas. The fresh leaves form a small artistic forest on their plate, which bursts with the garnish of diced mangoes and pomegranate seeds and fulfills the mission of a proper roof. It is simultaneously sweet, sharp and spicy.

Sura serves Thai food, drinks – and lots of kicks

Some of the most tempting meatballs in town are the koftas at Rania, where Shetty makes a mousse out of chicken thighs seasoned with green chillies, cardamom and cilantro, forms rounds out of the goodness and deep-fries them so they hold their shape. The meatballs come with a coat of truffle cream and, for balance, smoked pickled oyster mushrooms that whisper star anise. It’s hard to turn away from the first courses, a pot of gold that also includes delicious marinated prawns that crunch between your teeth from their rice flour crust.

I then move on to the beef cutlet, a second course option, and indulge in an entree of mashed short ribs with onion, curry leaves and black pepper, breaded with Japanese bread and fried. While most states in India ban the slaughter of cows, which Hindus consider sacred, the meat is consumed in some parts of the country, including Kerala in the south.

“Salads are not a big thing” in India, says Shetty. But this is America. The chef’s contribution to the cause is a bouquet of roasted beets and butternut squash that emerge from goat cheese raita and drizzled with curry vinaigrette — Indian accents applied to a popular American beet and goat cheese salad. Ambarsari cod looks like fish and chips without the chips. Wrapped in a chickpea batter that turns golden with time in the pan, the cod is dusted with spices including turmeric and dry fenugreek and served with chutney. Ramps are found in a small part of northeastern India, says Shetty, who likes the bold, garlicky notes of wild leeks.

The chef makes his own paneer, using organic milk that he infuses with citric acid. The resulting cheese is soft like ricotta and is served as an appetizer with sweet peas and shaved pecorino.

Candles on wide tables bathe the room in soft light, and golden chairs practically caress their occupants. The setting is a regal frame for cooking, including my top picks among entrees. The Parsi chicken finds a hard-boiled egg dusted with a red chili mixture, atop a nest of thin potato strips and spoonfuls of shredded chicken that resonate with heat. Cut the egg and get a sunny gravy to enrich the dish. The other main dish I’m always happy to relive is grilled monkfish, presented over sauteed spinach, thick with garlic, in a creamy yellow moat of coconut milk pulsating with ginger and green chillies. To accentuate the flavor of the monkfish, Shetty adds Thai fish sauce to the pool.

The one dish I don’t want to repeat is the pork belly vindaloo. Its tangy green sauce is wasted on the white bites of what is nothing but fat. The breads also pale in comparison to the designs at Rasika in the Penn neighborhood, except for the cracker parota, similar to paratha but thicker and richer. Dessert-wise, the most imaginative choice is a riff on shrikhand, sweetened strained yogurt flavored with cardamom and pistachios. Rania’s version elaborates on tradition with a pure sugar coating that you crack open like a brûlée to reveal additions of coconut, lemon leaf syrup and sweet yellow-rind cherries. Busy? Of course. Refreshing? That too.

Singh scored a double whammy when he hired Shetty, whose wife, April Busch, runs the summer program at Rania. The couple met while working at Indian Accent in New York. The drinks are a compelling reason to explore the new restaurant, which features some award-winning cocktails, with their most spectacular, the To Mule or Not to Mule, coming in a horn-shaped glass.

The most sumptuous space in the restaurant remains the private dining room to the left of the entrance, a jewel box whose walls sparkle with a host of small, hand-placed mirrors. Punjab Grill asked $3,000 to rent the 10-seat room. Rania makes the fashion statement more accessible, charging $150 per person for the experience, a chef’s tasting menu of off-the-list dishes. (A minimum of two diners are required at the shared table, which can also be reserved for special events.)

The name Punjab Grill signaled food from northern India, known for its richness. Rania allows Shetty to host and incorporate ideas from all over India, indeed the world.

“Come with an open mind,” the chef tells people.

Listening to the demand gives its audience some of the most authentic Indian food in the city.

427 11 St. NW. 202-804-6434. Open for dine-in 5pm to 10pm Tuesday to Saturday. Prices: Three courses $75, four courses $90. Sound control: 70 decibels/Conversation is easy. Accessibility: There are no barriers to entry; restrooms are ADA compliant. Pandemic protocols: Staff members, all vaccinated, are not required to wear masks.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *