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    Restaurant Review ~ Indique / 3512-14 Connecticut Ave., NW

    Counting up dozens of Indian restaurants in DC and the metro area, dedicated foodies can rejoice. They can always find a curry dish or two to satisfy their Indian food passion. But here’s a word to the wise: one of the reigning top-tier Indian eateries is Indique in Cleveland Park. Showing up often in the Washingtonian magazine’s “very best of” listings and enjoying a 14-year history, the restaurant features a menu that glamorizes Indian street food in an elegant setting.

    The mastermind behind the phenomenal food is co-owner and executive chef K.N. Vinod, a native of Kerala and now a DC resident for 30 years. That has given him ample time to assess the local restaurant scene and to that end, he and his partner opened Bombay Bistro in Rockville back in the early 1990s. Long-time DC foodies, may recall the enthusiastic review that Phyllis Richman, then food editor of the Washington Post, gave this Indian outpost restaurant many years ago. Fortunately, Bombay Bistro is still thriving, despite the explosion of restaurant newcomers in the nearby area.

    From that, the owners started a second Bombay Bistro in Fairfax, which the partners have since sold, and then opened a 10-year-long success, Indique Heights, which closed recently — and sadly. “Indique Heights was large,” said Vinod, “and it took up lots of space,” adding that this second-story place had the convenience of an outdoors terrace and a downstairs garage for easy parking. Their first menu was basically Indian tapas, he said, but patrons were confused by the small plates offerings, and looked for the more traditional tandoori and curry meals. To please their fans, Vinod reorganized the menu slightly, retaining his creative small plates, but adding on the more familiar Indian fare.

    Considering his culinary genius and star power — yes, he has appeared on the Food Network, has made guest appearance at local food festivals and competitions, and is cooking at the James Beard House in February — Vinod did not start out his career planning to be a chef. Instead, he studied hotel management in Madras, a course that required working in different departments of a hotel. That, of course, included kitchen duties, and that is when chef Vinod discovered his inner passion: cooking. “It was my preparation in class of a lamb korma,” he said. “The teacher called the class together and said, ‘This is how it should be done.’”

    And, then another turning point: In 1985 he led a team of cooks to the U.S. for the Festival of India at the Smithsonian’s annual summer food festival. After working for the festival with 22 cooks who prepared 5,000 meals a day, Vinod went back to India to continue to work for a major hotel in New Delhi. After a few months he eventually decided to make DC his home, moving permanently by the end of 1985. After arriving in the U.S.Vinod then decided to attend the Culinary Institute of India in Hyde Park, New York.

    So that brings him up to now at Indique, where the food is amazing, and if you come with an immense appetite, relax in the plush setting and order such temptations as the pickled pork belly (crunchy and delicious), the Kerala lamb “shepherd’s pie” (which is not a pie but delicately curried pieces of lamb served on a stack of potato slices), the salmon sliders (a mini salmon burger sandwiched on Indian bread), and the Achari chicken taco wrapped in the Indian version of a corn tortilla.

    Fortunately, Indique is now offering Sunday bottomless brunches, so go enjoy — dinners too.

    Indique / dinner, Mon.-Thu 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. brunch 12noon-3pm, dinner 5:30-11pm; Sun. brunch 11am-3pm, dinner 5:30-10:30pm. 202-244-6600; www.indique.com.

    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.