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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ Pappe / 1317 14th St., NW

    Pappe’s Cuisine Pops.

    Welcoming new restaurants to the DC food scene is a food lover’s dream. Places open up regularly all over the metro area. While some are not even worth a comment or two, when a gem pops up, like Pappe, it’s time to go eat.

    photo--courtesy Savor PR

    photo–courtesy Savor PR

    In fact, Pappe (the name means “brother” in Punjabi) is so new that its Indian cuisine and small but artful setting may not yet be on locals’ “must” list. That will change because the food is not just the typical fare that so many area Indian restaurants offer. The food is basically Northern Indian, but the menu stars some South Indian dishes, such as vindaloo, the defining dish of Goan cuisine.

    Vindaloo is a fiery curry that is based on the original Portuguese dish that featured pork in a garlicky sauce. Most often area restaurants use lamb as the central meat, though some may also substitute chicken instead. But the chef at Pappe uses lamb in an intoxicating spice curry that may singe the palate, but is worth every bite. After all, you can tame the flame with a chilled Indian beer or a steaming cup of masala chai tea . . . delicious.

    photo--courtesy Savor PR

    photo–courtesy Savor PR

    Of course, start off with one or several appetizers. Number one choice are the samosas — three of us placed two orders for a total of four piping hot and crispy samosas with a choice of two dipping sauces: one sweetish and the other based on creamed cilantro. A second “must” is the aloo papdi chaat, a North Indian classic dish (a popular offering at many Indian restaurants) that the chef composes of chickpeas, cooked potatoes, yogurt, and tweaks of mint and coriander. Pappe’s version comes in a cone shape with some tamarind chutney and thin pastry.

    Other appetizers that beckon include the Goan crab cakes with mint chutney; minced lamb patties on sheermal naan; prawn koliwada, a spicy fried shrimp with a Punjabi history; Amritsari macchi, here with Atlantic cod; and a dish that is generally called a “Punjabi fried fish snack.” Others are listed as well, but these kick off the balance of the menu.

    Entrée choices do include some familiar offerings, such as chicken tikka masala and butter chicken. But the chef goes off course with Masala duck roast, a composite of cubed duck with coconut and spices; braised lamb shank; and junglee laal maas, or bone-in goat with garlic tomato chutney. Plus — of course, an unusual offering of grilled or tandoored entrées that include salmon, spicy chicken tikka, and adrak lamb chops with ginger, lemon, and a yogurt marinade.

    photo--courtesy Savor PR

    photo–courtesy Savor PR

    The list of entrées extends through assorted vegetarian dishes, such as baingan bartha (grilled eggplant), palak paneer (spinach with garlic and onions), and dall makhana (smoked black lentils stirred with ghee and garam masala), as well as other options. And, of course, what Indian menu would be complete without assorted curries, which is where discerning patrons will find the show-stopping vindaloo.

    Other curries include Malabar (South Indian coconut curry) and korma (cashews, nutmeg, and other spices). And the chef whips up three different biryanis with either chicken, lamb, or vegetarian. finally, no Indian meal would be complete without a side of naan (bread) and the menu gives patrons such choices as plain or garlic naans, tender and perfectly baked.

    photo--courtesy Savor PR

    photo–courtesy Savor PR

    Desserts may be on offer, but the Pappe’s outstanding mango lassi — thick, creamy, and almost spoonable — satisfies any sweet tooth cravings. This version is certainly one of the best in the metro area.

     

    Pappi / Hours: lunch daily 11:30am-3pm; dinner Sun.-Wed. 5-10pm, Thu.-Sat. to 11pm. 202-888-8220.

    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.