This Friday evening Subhamoy and I were in one of our fine dining(nothing extra fancy here!!) in DC moods. This usually entails a Metro ride to some downtown location followed by a quick march to a predetermined restaurant (a lot of soul searching goes into this step). After a nice meal, we usually spend time wandering around looking for ice cream or we might just head home.
This time around we were headed to Nirvana...it had been touted as an Indian vegetarian restaurant with a difference, well known for its Gujarati thali. The decor was very 1940's wood and verdigris. In a previous birth that place must have been a bar. The colourful Gujarati table tops looked charming. Unfortunatley we were told that they make the whole Gujarati meal only on certain days. For appetizers, we shared a plate of khandvi - well made but the use of a fresh instead of the dessicated coconut garnish would have been more welcome. Their daily specials are thalis (more like all you can eat samplers) from differenn regions in Northern India. They also have the standard idli, dosa on the menu for the less adventurous. We were not sure whether we could do justice to 20$ thali (yeah the thali's are expensive) so we settled for a kadai paneer and hyderabadi biryani. The kadai paneer was very well made, the gravy flavourful with fresh tomatoes and garam masala( none of that generic greasy orangish goo you see in most resturants!!). The vegetables in the paneer were fresh and had the right amount of crunch, this was quite a change from the standard frozen vegetables. Now the hyderabadi biryani (this dish is traditionally very non vegetarian and spicy) - in this case they used tofu to substitute meat. I am still not completely satisfied that it was tofu and not Nutrella *. Our waiter assured us that it was the former but I still cannot figure out how they got tofu to be so chewy and full of flavour (don't say marination - I know what marinated tofu tastes like)...have to go there another time to figure it out. We were full by the time we got done and decided to walk to Georgetown for ice cream by the waterfront. The bill was 27 bucks including tips ( see I am so low maintenance). The only negative thing I can say is that I did not like their plates which were of the cheap steel variety. Steel plates have the oh-so-very-Indian charm about them but then they should nice and shiny, not dull.
The walk to the Georgetown turned out rather painful as I was not wearing the right shoes. After one Mocha Chiller( a concotion of espresso chip icecream, milk and heath bar) served by a cute boy with cute accent and shared with an even more cuter guy, I had forgotten all about my foot. Though it came back the moment we decided to head back.
For those interseted, Nirvana is situated very close to the corner of 18 and K streets in Northwest DC.
* Nutrella (100%vegetarian) for the uninitiated is a soy derivative which comes as dessicated meat balls (not to worry - it just looks like that) in a box. You soak them in hot water till they become soft and spongy and then add them to your curries etc. Sounds interesting -head for your local Indian grocery store.