An Indian Standout in Alexandria

A lot of Indian restaurants have opened here in recent years, and most are known more for low prices than for the quality or variety of their cooking. It’s a treat to run across an exception. Dishes of India is inexpensive but with cooking that’s a cut above most of the competition. The credit goes to chef Ramanand Bhatt; during his 15 years of cooking in the area, he has run the kitchens at Rajajee in DC and Haandi in Falls Church and Bethesda.

The basement location of Dishes of India has been home to several restaurants, most recently a seafood house, and not much of the decor has changed except for the pink tablecloths. (“Pink,” Diana Vreeland once remarked, “is the navy blue of India.”)

Indian friends who went with me to Dishes of India say that their strategy for evaluating an Indian restaurant is to order the simple, familiar dishes that most Indian restaurants have on their menus. If these are prepared carefully, the rest will be, too.

Samosas, nicely crusted and seasoned, passed this test, as did the crisp vegetable pakoras and moist chicken tikka. The breads, one of the glories of Indian cookery, are also first-rate. The onion kulcha is the best version of this bread I’ve had in any local Indian restaurant. “The aloo paratha,” said my Indian friend, after trying the tandoor-cooked whole-wheat bread stuffed with mashed potatoes and peas, “is better than my mother’s.”

The tandoori style of cooking–in the white-hot heat of a clay oven called a tandoor–originated in the northwest of India, but it is now found in most Indian restaurants. Don’t miss the tandoori chicken or the tandoori lamb chops at Dishes of India. The chicken is what tandoori chicken should be–moist and permeated with the flavor of its yogurt-and-spice marinade. Lamb chops are tender and beautifully spiced. Shish kebab, minced-lamb kebabs, are crusted on the outside and moist and spicy within. One of the few disappointments is tandoori salmon, which was dry.

Good choices from the large selection of chicken and lamb specialties include murg makhani, chicken in a creamy tomato sauce with butter, and lamb karahi, first cooked in the tandoor then stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices. Among the vegetable dishes, try channa masala, chickpeas cooked in a delicious, gingery blend of spices, or beinga bhartha, tandoor-roasted eggplant mashed with tomatoes and onion.

Indian desserts are, for most Westerners, an acquired taste. They do not appear to be ordered frequently at Dishes of India–all tasted of the refrigerator.

-Thomas Head August 1999, Washingtonian

Dishes of India, Belle View Shopping Center

I always look forward to going to Dishes of India. One of my favorite local restaurants. I even love the aromas which meet you at the door. It’s a very friendly, welcoming place. Naresh, one of the owners, always greets you warmly, and we visit regularly, he sincerely asks about how things are going for me and my family. He goes out of his way to be sure that you are happy with your meal and enjoy the whole experience. I enjoy the quiet, peaceful, unrushed atmosphere. The dishes are uniformly excellent and new dishes are introduced regularly. I was unfamiliar with Indian food several years ago, but thanks to Naresh and his father Ramanand, the chef, I have come to love the many varieties. I especially like the vegetarian choices: The Paneers (With Soft cheese cubes), the Began Bartha (rosted eggplant), Lamb Chop Tandoori, Murg Tikka Tandoori(chicken), Rogan Josh (lamb) and the Curries.

The soft naan bread, Raita (yogurt mixed with crushed cucumbers), and Mango Lassi (cool yogurt drink) add to any meal. Recently, and excellent buffet with a great variety of dishes has been added for lunch. Naresh and the waiters are very helpful in making recommendations and modifying seasoning to please you. Special children’s menus are available. Dishes is happy to provide take-out meals. A website includes wonderful reviews from The Washingtonian, The Washington Post and other local papers. ( I hope you will come to feel right at home at Dishes, as I have. (Now that I’ve written this review. I’m salivating and wish I could run down there now, but it’s real late and that will have to wait, a day or two.)

-Peter Bloom, Hollin Hills Bulletin

Dishes of India has become a favorite of the Hollin Hills neighborhood of Alexandria. It offers traditional elegance and decor in contemporary facilities, excellent cuisine and attentive personal service.

They offer an unparalleled encounter with delectable Indian cuisine. Many visitors who have dined here have found it a surprising delight and have quickly become steady patrons.

Dishes of India’s Tandoori, an egg-shaped clay oven which is charcoal-fired to extremely high temperatures, produces lamb, chicken, salmon and vegetable dishes of exotic charm and spiced superbly.

Chef Raman Bhatt has devoted over 47 years to the art of cooking and has worked in Washington, D.C. for over 16 years. He was associated with Fine Indian cuisine in Madrid, Spain and at a hotel in India he prepared quality food for Air India, India’s only international airline. He worked at Rajajee Fine Indian Cuisine in Washington and as Executive Chef at Haandi Fine Indian Cuisine in Virginia and Maryland. In 1995 Chef Bhatt received the Chefs 2000 award from the Chefs in America Association, certifying him as one of North America’s outstanding chefs.

Chef Sohan Singh Sous chef Sohan Singh brings over 30 years experience to Dishes of India. He worked in Ashoka Hotel, one of India’s top 5-star rated hotels. He also worked in Japan and has been in the Washington, D.C. area for 10 years.

-Great Chefs of Historic Alexandria