Indique DC - An Indian experience that's Unique, indeed!
Indique, formed by the fusion of Indian and Unique, has been a mainstay in Cleveland Park since 2002. They underwent a much needed menu overhaul and I am happy to report that it has come back stronger than ever!
Chef Vinod is one of the most successful and respected Indian chefs in the area, has cooked for dignitaries, and has had a number of media appearances, most recently on Beat Bobby Flay (go watch that episode!). At Indique, he has introduced a good mix of classics from South and North India, and modern twists as well. And is seriously one of the nicest and most humble people, along with manager Surfy.
Most Indian restaurants don’t particularly pay attention to their cocktail program. So the first huge surprise to me was that Indique’s new cocktail program, developed by Carlie Steiner of Stir Bartending Co. is bloody amazing! I don’t just mean good cocktails, or cocktails with some clichéd Indian twist but actual well thought out cocktail creations which pair really well with the food. I absolutely loved the Mumbai Mule which combines rum, spicy ginger, lime and fresh curry leaf (my favorite!), and also the “Tellisherry” which is made with black pepper, gin, sherry, and aperol. I need to go back and try more – especially the house made garam masala tonic (and gin ;)).
ProTip: They have a happy hour Monday-Friday 5-7pm with deals on cocktails, beer (yes, Kingfisher too), and wine.
To go alongside drinks is a quintessential Indian bar snack- masala peanuts. It’s a simple combination of roasted peanuts, lemon, chili and cilantro but it took me back to my college days where we would drink pints of beer and eat copious amounts of peanuts!
We also tried an assortment of other appetizers – my favorites were the cauliflower chili fry, the chicken seekh kabab, and a lovely sweet potato chaat! Even if just for the photo, you need to get the shrimp puchka shots – which are basically little puffs of fried semolina that come stuffed with spiced shrimp and a trio of chasers. I especially enjoyed the kokum chaser, the tamarind was alright, and I didn’t care for the mango (but then, I am not a fan of mango – yes, hold your judgement).
As can be expected at an Indian restaurant, there is a good selection of vegetarian and meat options. On the other hand, you don’t often see pork on Indian menus and Indique’s pickled pork belly mini appam was a standout, nicely spiced and cooked.
On to dinner.
The lobster and shrimp bisque we started with was creamy, coconut-ty, and the fresh curry leaves cut the heaviness of the dish. I need this in my life on a regular basis.
The main entrees on the menu are a good mix of North Indian style dishes and the less often seen South Indian dishes. I stayed strictly on the South Indian path – only because it’s really hard to find some of this stuff!
The vegetable stew – which is a dish of morel mushrooms and assorted vegetables cooked in coconut milk with green chilies was dreamily good - wonderfully but subtly spiced.
My favorite dish of the evening, the piece de resistance, was the Kerala fish curry, from the chef’s selection. OMG, this was really special. The fish was nicely cooked, and the gravy was deliciously complex and fragrant, truly an outstanding dish. This was served with “Puttu” which is a mixture of rice flour and coconut, and is used widely in Kerala (where the chef hails from) as the main starch in a meal (instead of bread or rice).
Another item from the chef specialty is the lamb shepherd’s pie –perfectly cooked lamb under a bed of creamy potatoes. I thought this dish really showcased the versatility and creativity of Chef Vinod.
We also tried a number of vegetable dishes - the okra, and the yucca (SO GOOD!), and the key accompaniments – rice, naan, chutneys.
We rounded off the evening with delicious kulfi, orange shreekhand and a fantastic mustard gelato made in collaboration with Dolci Gelati. The gelato selection may vary, but when you put 2 good things together aka Indique and Dolci, the outcome has to be great!
So my point is GO TO INDIQUE. If you get just one thing, get the fish curry! But what you should really do is get a cocktail, some masala peanuts, and the pickled pork belly. Then a fish curry, morel stew, and shallot yucca. Enjoy dinner and take leftovers for lunch the next day!
There is WAY MORE to Indian food than what you see on a standard menu– go see for yourself at Indique. I can’t wait to go try their brunch soon - #DosasandMimosas heck yes!