Saturday, November 04, 2006

Indique - Washington, DC

3512 -14 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 244-6600

There was a time that you could walk into this Cleveland Park Indian spot and get a table and a great Indian meal without a reservation or long wait. Unfortunately, much has changed in a few years time. Fortunately, however, it's only the "no reservations needed" bit that's changed. The food and, to a very slightly lesser extent, the service, is still strong.

Indique bills itself as the restaurant that offers "Unique Indian Flavors." While unique is perhaps a lofty aspiration, Indique delivers most of what it promises. To start, the physical layout of the restaurant is nifty. No matter where I seem to be seated, there's always seems to be a decent amount to see around and yet a bit of serenity that allows me to enjoy the company I'm with. I first went to Indique shortly after it opened. My girlfriend at the time used to live in the neighborhood and she mentioned a spot she had wanted to try. So we went, and soon we had become big Indique fans. I lived in Boston -- so she quickly became a regular while I remained a fan from afar. At the time, and for a bit thereafter, we thought we had discovered our little secret -- an undiscovered spot with tasty and well prepared food at reasonable prices. Apparently, the secret's now out of the bag.

On this particular trip, a few weeks ago, I went to Indique with my parents. We drove from Frederick, Maryland, where my dad has now relocated to. Having driven there, we were quite happy with the presence of the valet service, which was reasonably priced and quite prompt. We arrived late at the restaurant and were told that our reservations were just about to be canceled. Luckily, they were not.

We skipped the appetizers because mom, dad, and I had eaten a fairly large lunch only a few hours before. Indique's entrees, unlike many Indian restaurants, are not served family style for sharing. They are served on large square plates with large individual portions of food with rice, lentils, and other accompaniments, which can vary by dish. We decided to be difficult and attempt to share each dish. The size of the dishes were less than cooperative, but the waiters did their best to make everything fit.

As our first dish, mom ordered the Chicken Chettinad (shown above). The menu proudly states that this chicken is "not for the faint hearted" and that it is an "authentic preparation with toasted telecherry peppercorns, served with grilled tomato and lemon rice." While I am quite sure the dish did not rise to a level sufficient to alarm those who are faint of heart, the Chettinad was quite flavorful and aromatic. We all enjoyed it.

Our second dish, which has been described by several Indique fans as "crack" (without any implication that crack is actually good, tasty or otherwise) was the Baingan Bhartha which, is roasted eggplant cooked with onions and tomatoes. The eggplant, or baingun (which in Bengali literally translates to "without anything good or nutritional"), was, as advertised, excellent.

We rounded out our dinner with a Chicken Tikka Makhani (literally translated as butter chicken). The tikka makhani has become somewhat ubiquitous in Indian restaurants. Indique's version was flavorful and tasty. Indian diners dining at Indian restaurants -- especially those of an earlier generation (like my parents) can be very hard critics to please (always asking, "could we have done better at home?"). Despite the rigor of the inspection, my parents and I agreed that the overall dining experience at Indique was splendid. From distinct dishes to attentive service, Indique is a must visit in the Cleveland Park area. Let me know what you think if you are ever there!