Food Decor Service Cost
23 23 23 $47

December 1st, 2008

Rasika lives up to its one-of-a-kind website. (you *really* need to go and look at it, it’s amazing). It’s located in a part of Penn Quarter that I’ve never been to, maybe it’s the “real” Penn Quarter because its accessible by the Penn Quarter metro. I don’t know how I feel about the close proximity to it’s cousin ‘701’ which I know nothing about except that it’s mentioned on their website. But if its like other great restaurants (Great American restaurants), they can have them as many and as close as they want!

The glass doors open onto another set of doors, draped by oversized curtains (it’s a little clumsy getting into it). We arrived with a reservation at 6:15 and were seated in the front part of the restaurant (bordering a gauzy curtain that separated us from the back part of the restaurant but facing the glass windows to the street). Where we sat was well lit (I could snap a few pictures off) before they dimmed the lights at 6:30.

Our waiter filled our water, left and came back while we decided on food/drinks and then took our orders of Kingfisher and a “Chocolate Bunny”[too much alcohol] and an order of Garlic Naan that came with a mint chutney and sweet chutney (tamarind based I think). He brought them back a minute or two after the 630 cut-off for the three course pre-theater dinner menu ($30 each) to take our order, but didn’t even look at his watch. (After debating with myself on whether or not I wanted the pre-theater menu, I was antsy he wouldn’t let us since it was no longer 630).

Our tasting menus consisted of: first course: Kokum Scallops (coconut milk/garlic/cumin) and harra bharra tikka (chicken/mint/basil/cilantro), second course: lamb rizala (cashew nutes/cardamom/desiccated coconut) and tandoori salmon (atlantic salmon/cinnamon/black pepper) with a side of kela tamatar kut(banana dumpling/tomatoes.onion&mustard seed), third course: carrot halwa with cinnamon sabayon and gulab jamun with ice cream (plus bonus free gulab jamun for my birthday with a candle in it!).

The scallops had a great coconut milk sauce on them and they were free of any viens/grit or anything else that would have thrown me off. The chicken (harra bharra tikka, as recommended by our waiter) was great tasting! I loved how you could taste the flavor of the grill (in a good way, not like something doused with lighter fluid, but something that had been cooked correctly and with patience), and the texture was great!

The lam rizala, which had a square of edible silver leaf on top, was also delicious. I like how it was served with the rice separate so that I could dish out as much sauce/rice/lamb ratio as I liked. The rice was nice, fluffy, and natural, with no butter in sight. Salmon was an interesting protein choice for tandoori, but it tasted delicious. It wasn’t doused in sauce, and though it could use a little more flavor, it was a lot of food – at least twice what I though would have come as part of a three course dinner. The banana dumpling I had envisioned was, and I don’t know why, a pan seared or fried ‘gyoza’ style wrapper with crispy, sweet, banana inside (and I don’t know why—maybe because I didn’t read the menu after I saw ‘banana dumpling’). It was a tomato sauce that seemed like it belonged on some Italian dish or a breadsitick, and it overwhelmed the dumpling, which was a fried mound of some substance that tasted flavorless (not in a bad way). I was surprised at how meaty the banana was and how flavorless it was. Though, banana’s flavor does tend to be very weak. I quickly removed the 1-side-order-dumpling-that-was-$7 from its cute little dish and intended to eat it with some rice, but before I knew it, I was too full to eat the rest!

I had a hankering for a Forbidden City Tea (Long Island Iced Tea with Chai syrup) and one of their drinks had ‘masala chai’ in it, so I asked our waiter if I could try a long island iced tea with the chai tea on top (they have a nice, full service bar). A complimentary gulab jamun came with a candle in it (yep, emphasizing it again ^_^) and our server wished me a happy birthday. The gulab jamun’s intent was great, but it was left on either side of the ice cream to sit in a compartment of very very very sweet syrup which rendered the crispy fried dough a little soggy and way too sweet (for lack of better word) for me. Let alone two orders of it! If I would have known we would get this dessert free (as recommended by multiple friends), I would have ordered the only other choice on the three course menu, assorted sorbet. I think I had something like this at an Indian buffet in the Herndon area, except it was just drizzled with the syrup instead of drowning in it.

Unfortunately, I was far too full at this point to take more than a few bites of my carrot cake, so I can’t offer an accurate opinion of it. It reminded me of something like a bread pudding, and I was surprised at how substantial it tasted. We boxed up our bread basket of naan (which comes complimentary with the meal), the half-eaten banana dumpling, and my lamb leftovers to take home, but I forgot them at the table!!! And I had such great plans for those leftovers.

I can’t say how much of a “deal” the tasting menu is, but considering one drink is $12 here, I would think $30 for three courses is great! Though I don’t crave Indian food like I do Chinese or Japanese food, I don’t avoid going to Indian restaurants (like.. Italian places). My boyfriend had expressed that he would go here in the near future, whether it was with me or his brother, so I took the last days of fall and my birthday as an excuse to beat his bro and had a lot of fun doin it.


From Zagat:

“Success has not spoiled” this “most original” Penn Quarter “hot spot” that “redefines Indian cuisine” with “spectacular” dishes like street fare-inspired small plates and “insanely delicious” appetizers, all paired with a “superior wine” selection; with a “gorgeous” interior bathed in a “orange glow”, it’s a “chic place” that’s also “surprisingly comfortable” thanks to “outstanding” service.

Food: 26, Decor: 24, Service: 23, Cost: $46
Penn Quarter | 633 D Street NW & 6th/7th Sts | Penn Quarter Metro | 202-637-1222

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Election Day Cupcakes

We had Election Day themed cupcakes here but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snag some.
These were available at Hello Cupcake, but I decided to make my own (with some help) using a Georgetown Cupcake recipe published in Martha Stewart.

The recipe is slightly inaccurate (it was also posted in the Washington Post with different measurements and servings sizes). There was no recipe for the frosting, so I made (and by “I”, I mean “by boyfriend’s mother”) cream cheese frosting and dyed some of it blue (democrat blue) with animal crackers as the animals (instead of the pictured fondant animals).

Chocolate and Vanilla Election Day Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen

– 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup milk
– 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, preferably European-style, room temperature
– 1 1/4 cups sugar
– 2 large eggs, room temperature
– 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
– Frosting
– Optional: 1 (24-oz) package fondant, edible glitter and/or nonpareils
– Red or blue paste food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, add milk and vanilla extract; stir to combine and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk mixture; beat until just combined. Add cocoa powder and beat until just combined.

4. Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter. Transfer to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pans for two minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large 5/8-inch round tip (such as Ateco No. 808). Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and set aside.

6. Meanwhile, press your thumb into the center of the fondant to make a well. Place a small amount of food coloring (red for Republican, blue for Democrat) in the well and knead fondant until color is well blended. Continue to add more food coloring to fondant until desired color is achieved. Roll out into a 1/16-inch-thick sheet.

7. To make Republican elephants, cut out 12 elephant shapes using 2-inch elephant cutters. Sprinkle with edible glitter. To make Democrat donkeys, cut out 12 bear shapes using a 2-inch bear cutter. Using a 2-inch daisy cutter, cut out enough daisy shapes so that you have 36 petals; sprinkle bear shaped and daisy petal fondant with edible glitter. Top each cupcake with a fondant elephant or bear, using two daisy petals to make donkey ears on each bear and one petal to make the tail. Sprinkle cupcakes with nonpareils and serve. (I used animal crackers)

There’s a simple cream cheese frosting recipe linked to the cupcake recipe (along with a handy video!). It says its for only 1 dozen cupcakes, but I used this for all 24 of them.

Cream Cheese Frosting – Chocolate and Vanilla Election Day Cupcakes

– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
– 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
– 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

Place all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until well combined.

Here’s my final version:

Couture Cupcakes

Food Decor Service Cost
5 n/a n/a $5

I figured that, in order to partake in this “Cupcake War” happening in the Washington Post, that I’d have to stray from my top-seeders and try some of the other local cupcake flavor. I’ve tried Couture Cupcakes twice. These cupcakes, from a wedding caterer in Maryland, are sold at two places in the District: Cafe Tu-o-tu in Georgetown and ACKC Cafe in Logan Circle/Alexandria (there are two locations).

First taste was the “Sophie”, a chocolate cake topped with a cookies & creme buttercream frosting. Of course, this description was on their website. If you walk into Cafe Tu-o-tu, you have to ask about the cupcakes. They say this one is an “oreo” cupcake with no mention of its makers. This cupcake had an under-whelming frosting (I expect much out of my frostings after Baked & Wired, Georgetown, and Hello). and the cake was so dry. I hate to say this, but the cupcake was so bad that I couldn’t even finish it–half of it went to the birds.

Now, I thought that this was might, might, be attributed to the fact that the cupcakes were sitting on un-covered trays by the register for who knows how long. So I made it my mission to visit ACKC (a formidable hike from the Dupont metro) and see whos fault it was: cupcake or re-seller.

ACKC itself is an amazing place (and will have its own review soon), but I was also let-down by the cupcakes here. No excuses here since the cupcakes were fresh from the back in closed boxes and were then transferred to a closed plastic container. The flavor options here were more expansive, and I settled on the “Bella Lucia” (vanilla cake with Nutella center topped with a stracciatella Buttercream) and the “Mrs. Kimery” (pumpkin spice cake with pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting). I chose these two because I love stracciatella and Nutella and have been having my own Pumpkin Spice and Carrot Cake Cupcake Battles on the side. Like Cafe Tu-o-tu’s “Sophie”, the “Bella Lucia” went half/three-fourths un-eaten and went into the trash. The frosting was like nothing I had ever tasted–it had the consistency of lotion, and did not taste like the yummy stracciatella truffles that I often find myself craving in the winter months. The nutella center was quite lacking, and all around it was dry dry cake that grated against my tongue. I had to wait until today to eat the pumpkin cupcake, and it wasn’t any better. While the cake was moister, the frosting was worse! The cake had no particular flavor and the frosting tasted chemical-esque, like soap. I kept expecting my mouth to be filled with the great wonderful fall flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, and cream cheese that is all a pumpkin spice anything should be, but it never was. This cupcake was also un-finished.

Unfortunately, the descriptions of all of CC’s cupcakes are amazing. I dont know what goes wrong between the thinking-up and baking steps of the process, but there IS something wrong. I would be ashamed to have these cupcakes catered to my wedding/shower/birthday, and would rather eat Costco sheet cake anyday!

From the Washington Post ‘Cupcake Wars’

About: Paola Domenge started this Potomac-based venture as a hobby with her mother, Silvia, but formalized it as a business in April. At a leased kitchen in Gaithersburg, they bake primarily custom orders and sell at two cafes in the District: ACKC in Logan Circle and Cafe Tu-o-Tu in Georgetown. 301-926-7333; www.couture-cupcakes.com. ACKC, 1529C 14th St. NW, 202-387-2626; www.thecocoagallery.com; ACKC Alexandria, 116 E. Del Ray Ave., Alexandria, 703-635-7917; www.artfullychocolate.com; Cafe Tu-o-Tu, 2816 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-298-7777; http://www.cafetuotu.com

The Range: We bought the cupcakes at ACKC, where the selection is wider than at Tu-o-Tu, and there were six varieties: lime, red velvet, vanilla/Nutella, Boston cream pie, chocolate/raspberry and brownie.

Price: $3.50

Size: Standard, with the perfect amount of frosting. (Average weight: 3.4 ounces.)

How do they taste?: For the most part, these were very nicely done, with creamy frostings, moist cakes and vibrant flavors. The vanilla cakes tended to be on the dry side, and the brownie cupcake was gummy and underdone, but many of the others won us over.

Best of the Bunch: Red velvet (a.k.a. Savannah, shown above), with a beautiful deep color and light cocoa flavor, topped with a truly lovely cream cheese frosting, was just about everything a cupcake should be. (Score: 8 out of 10.)

Price Per Ounce: $1.01

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