If you’ve been looking for great Indian food in Washington when you can’t get a reservation at Rasika, look no further than Pappe, a newly opened Indian restaurant on 14th Street. Pappe is a casual, cozy, and charming restaurant. The long, narrow space has beautiful, market-style tapestries hanging from the ceiling and a long bar that would be great for dining solo with a glass of vino.
While Pappe is not “as good as Rasika,” as we continue to be asked, it’s still pretty damn good. And, it fills a much needed void between the upscale, expensive Rasika, which is typically reserved for celebratory dinners and special occasions, and the takeout joint on the corner (still love you though, Indigo). The space is chic, the service is friendly, and the food is certifiably great.
The naan is a must-order to begin any Indian meal, and we choose garlic from the robust menu of tandoori breads, including garlic, onion, green chilis, kashmiri, and minced lamb. The hot, thin, and bubbly naan was loaded with garlic, which we loved, and we all found ourselves fighting over the last piece. We ordered a second basket—and recommend you drop by for the selection.
By way of appetizers, we ordered the prawns, crispy fried shrimp with the tails on, served with a lemon wedge. They were packed with flavor, which was unexpected based on the simple presentation.
There are two must-order appetizers: the crispy chickpea salad and the Tandoor cauliflower. The crispy chickpea salad provides your palate with an exciting mix of textures and flavors in each bite. The chickpeas were served with a tamarind chutney and a cumin yogurt sauce, and topped with a paper-thin, crunchy pastry that you break apart with your fork—and mix it all up for some crunch.
The grilled cauliflower was bright and beautiful, seasoned with curry, black pepper, ginger and garlic, with the spices marinated entirely through each bite of the roasted cruciferous vegetable.
We’re all crazy for vegetables, and it was hard to select between the enticing descriptions of roasted, curried, and seasoned vegetables of all varieties: in samosas, in curries, as side dishes and the like. Fortunately, the vegetable entrees are available in two sizes. We loved the Kadai mushrooms, of which we ordered a small helping of the exotic mushrooms roasted in ginger and spices. Pappe, like most Indian restaurants, is very vegetarian friendly.
In classic basic Bitch fashion, butter chicken is my go-to take-out dish on a cold winter’s night, so we opted to try Pappe’s version. The selling point was the “sweet butter” on the menu description, because who turns down sweetness with butter? (No one). This was a really exceptional, flavorful dish, and we can see ourselves quickly establishing a takeout dependency.
Keeping in our effort to try the classic Indian dishes, we also ordered the Punjabi Aloo Gobi, with potatoes, cauliflower, onion, and tomatoes roasted in a Masala spice blend. We’ve eaten a lot of Aloo Gobi over the past few years and this one was exceptional, packed with flavor that had clearly come from a chef who knows how to make flavors resonate.
The green shrimp curry is spicy, smooth, and packed with flavor—with fresh tails-on shrimp and chili peppers simmered in the thick, smooth, and dense green sauce. Like most of the dishes, it was served with a side of Basmati rice. I brought this home for leftovers, and it was just as good the next day.
I’m not typically not wild about Indian desserts—preferring classic American cakes or a French pastry any day. That said, we were quickly persuaded by descriptions of doughnuts, brulees, and bread puddings on the dessert menu. As is our custom, we ordered both.
The chai creme brûlée is a must, as it combines two of our very favorite treats that share complementary flavors. The nutmeg and cinnamon flavors of the chai paired beautifully when incorporated into the creamy, vanilla, eggy custard that is the brûlée. The dessert was served in the classic ramekin, baked with a crispy sugar coating on top. The cinnamon also brought down the sweetness, so this would be a great dessert choice for someone without a sweet tooth.
The Bourbon bread pudding was good, and definitely tasted boozy. It’s hard not to love bread pudding: large, fluffy chunks of grilled bread sweetened with cinnamon, vanilla, and Bourbon, topped with a sweet, creamy, sugary sauce.
Next time, we’ll be sure to get the Gulab Jamun, deep fried doughnuts soaked in a light syrup and served with cardamom ice cream, in collaboration with Ice Cream Jubilee, the women-led local ice creamery.
All in all, Pappe is a welcome addition to 14th Street and Washington in general—it’s definitely going to be our local spot for a casual, reliable weekday dinner, or anytime we’re craving Indian. We also can’t wait for this spot to serve brunch—we’d be stoked for another great Indian brunch.
Pappe serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11a.m.- 3p.m.