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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
8.0
8.6
$40
Indian
Casual restaurant

Hours
Daily 11:30am–2:30pm
Daily 5:30pm–9:00pm

Features Kid-friendly, veg-friendly, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.passagetoindia.info

Bethesda, MD
4931 Cordell Ave.
Bethesda, MD
(301) 656-3373
Passage to India
Well executed, delicately spiced, and pleasantly surprising dishes among Indian antiques

At our last visit, we arrived at Passage to India without a reservation, but we were assured that if we could just wait a little while, we’d get the first available table. We passed the time by asking the affable staff to tell us the stories behind some of the gorgeous Indian antiques that tastefully decorate the walls and windows. A bronze statue of the elephant-headed god Ganesh is meant to bring success to the restaurant, we learned. We don’t know for sure whether Ganesh has anything to do with it, but Passage to India is certainly successful.

The warm welcome you’ll receive from the decorous but gracious servers sets the tone for a surprising and delightful meal of Indian dishes spanning the country’s regions. While you can stick to Brit-Indian favorites like chicken tikka masala, the diverse menu rewards a willingness to try something new. The menu is divided into quadrants representing the four corners of the nation—North, South, East, and West—with a variety of specialties unfamiliar even to the Indian-savvy Westerner. Among our favorite surprises was the salli boti jardaloo, a West Indian Parsi-style lamb stew with apricots and straw potatoes in a sweet, tangy sauce. And you won’t find chena-nentrakaya kalan—a coconut curry from South India featuring sweet potatoes and bananas—at many other Indian restaurants in town.

Among the appetizers, we favor the tandoori scallops (tender and touched with familiar smoky and spicy flavors of the tandoor) and the hariyali tikka (juicy, bite-sized nuggets of chicken in a mint-and-cilantro chutney). Ask for the platter of house pickles, which include lemon-and-ajwain as well as mixed-vegetable and green-chile versions, and for the assorted chutneys, which include tomato chutney flavored with nigella seeds. The chef’s samplers—khazanas—are a great way to get an overview of the options: each platter starts with a trio of assorted appetizers, followed by four curries in small silver dishes, saffron rice, raita, and salad; later, there’s dessert, too.

The room is hushed and intimate, with a variety of carefully assembled photographs, prints, paintings, and antiques from across India; soft music doesn’t drown out conversation. It is this attention to detail and sense of pride in its own choices that make Passage to India such an admirable project. Still, we come, above all, for the exciting regional dishes—a passage through which we pray mainstream District Indian will eventually walk, too.

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