Dining in DC: Bombay Club and Cafe Asia

There are pluses and minuses with a last-minute trip. On the upside, you get out of your immediate surrounds, and sometimes, that’s just what you need after a couple of stressful weeks. For the chief cook in the house, there’s a break from planning and cooking meals and packing lunchboxes (as with any trip, really). You could save money, like in our case with this road trip to Washington, D.C. as opposed to flying somewhere. On the downside, there’s a long stretch of driving, which my husband thankfully offered to do on the way there and which we split on the return journey. And one might forget things in the frenzy of packing and have to drag male children into Victoria’s Secret, where they blush and comment on how female the place is. “Look, that woman is practically naked!” one cries in horror. I reckon they’ll change their tune in a few years 😉

The lack of planning aside, however, we lucked out on food, which was the only thing on our agenda after we arrived in D.C. late on Monday.

The Zagat app on the iPhone pointed out an Indian restaurant not far from the hotel – the Bombay Club. As we walked in, we felt a bit scruffy in our travel gear while the other diners were in full office suits or formal attire. But hey, we weren’t turned away! The server, after discreetly glancing at the kids, led us to a quiet table in a corner away from people discussing multi-million-dollar transactions. The interior was posh, spacious and tastefully decorated, with intriguing touches such as a massive earthenware pot that sat enticingly close to our table. The boys had no patience for the menu and let us pick their dishes, apart from specifically requesting a mango lassi each.

We ordered naan bread and malai chicken tikka for them (a grilled chicken dish dotted with herbs), and tar lamb korma and chicken tikka makhni for us, with a cucumber raita and plain rice. The kids polished off their chicken and bread within minutes, and our lamb korma was tender, aromatic and tasty, as was the chicken tikka makhni – very tomatoey and spicy but even the kids enjoyed the sauce with their naan. The kids’ mango lassi deserves a mention all on its own. Pure mango and perfectly thick, piquant yoghurt, with very little added sugar. It was so full of flavor we had to beg the boys to slow down and not fill up before dinner arrived.

Suffice to say, we were stuffed after the mains. Nevertheless, Mr Greedy Guts (child #2) wanted to share a dessert with us all a dessert all to himself. He picked what I thought sounded a bit sickly sweet – a Mango Creme Brulee with pineapple and kiwi. This turned out to be icing on an already perfect cake. A silky smooth creme brulee, with just a hint of infused mango, and on its burnt sugar was a small sprinkling of fresh pineapple and slices of kiwi. I loved it so much I plan to reproduce it at home!

Sadly, no photos from Bombay Club due to dim romantic lighting and I only had my iPhone on me 😦

Bombay Club
815 Connecticut Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20006

We spent much of Tuesday hanging out with some of our best friends from our hometown in NJ and their three lovely boys. We’d only realized at the weekend that our DC trips would coincide, and so we met up at the National Zoo, where we spent a perfect spring morning and much of the afternoon. Drove back into town and visited the Renwick Gallery – a refreshing hidden gem with lofty ceilings among DC’s numerous museum offerings. In between, there was plenty of walking around, rather too often in circles :S  I had a touch of work to finish back at the hotel and meanwhile, my enterprising husband had decided on a restaurant for dinner, the Cafe Asia.

Though Zagat doesn’t rate this restaurant too highly, it looked modern and interesting, so we went in. Well, we were gobsmacked by the quality (and quantity) of the food, served in a smart, canteen-like setting (see slideshow), all in white and lime green. We had Happy Hour half-price sushi to start, half of which Mr Greedy Guts speedily transferred to his own plate. He had also ordered miso soup and a General Tso chicken to share with his brother and I couldn’t wait to see how much of those he’d finish – a rather alarming amount, I have to say!

I ordered a chicken laksa – a noodle dish with bean sprouts and tofu and shredded chicken in an addictive lemongrass and lime leaf-infused coconut broth. The dish hails from Malaysia and Singapore, same as its eater, and boy, was it authentic. It was, I dare say, better than the original, thanks to high quality ingredients and generous proportions – the kids laughed when they saw the size of the supposedly single-serve bowl! My husband ordered an Indonesian rice dish – nasi uduk – which came with bean crackers, cucumber and carrot pickles, the best beef rendang he’s had in his life (super tender and delicious), a condiment of peanuts and ikan bilis, a fried anchovy, and gado gado (a salad with a peanut dressing). He’d not eaten lunch, so no evidence of the original meal was left on his plate by the time he’d done. My laksa was a knockout, and the kids’ chicken was the best rendition of a General Tso’s that any of us have had on this continent.

Although I doubted that one place could have such a wide repertoire of pan-Southeast Asian plus Japanese dishes and pull it off, I was impressed. The service was relatively brisk, and the prices were reasonable.

It was so good we visited Cafe Asia again on night #3.

Which reminds me, we need to write to Zagat!

Question: Has anyone had luck with a compact camera and restaurant food photography? Please share your tips!

Cafe Asia

1720 I Street NW

Washington, DC

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April 23, 2010. Tags: . Asian, Indian, Restaurants, Reviews.

10 Comments

  1. Dionne Ford replied:

    Wish I had your post earlier. I was in DC this week also and would have enjoyed those restaurants.

    • divaindoors replied:

      We could have met up 🙂 Were you doing a spring break visit too? I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities to pop into these restaurants again. It was pleasantly surprising how close DC is to our neck of NJ!

  2. Debbie Galant replied:

    Nice to see you referring to your “hometown in NJ.” guess you’ve settled in!

    • divaindoors replied:

      Hey, I was settled from day 1! But for it to be a hometown, I had to like the people here (check) and buy a house (happening right now)! 🙂

  3. Deb replied:

    We had Indian food on our last night in DC, but unfortunately ordered something too spicy for the boys and their taste buds were fried. Jacob did enjoy some of it and we will take him for Indian again. We’re on a mission to get our kids to love Indian food.

    • divaindoors replied:

      Great mission Deb 🙂 I love it when mine are curious about different kinds of food.

      Sorry about that overly spicy experience for your boys .. even when I order stuff, it can be a lottery in terms of heat!

  4. david Levy replied:

    Deb and I took the kids to Cafe New Delhi in Arlington, Va for our evening Indian meal. While there was some heat to the dishes, they were outstanding. Look forward to eating with the Baums on the next trip.

    • divaindoors replied:

      Us too, David! Although the backyard bbq was a neat place to meet too!

  5. Elizabeth replied:

    Bombay Club was a face of the Clintons, FYI. Oh man do I love that place but more for a date than a family dinner. Order coffee and they carmelize sugar tableside.

    • divaindoors replied:

      Oh, I’d heard that political types liked the restaurant! I think we’re going back again, kids or no kids 😉

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