Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Raaga

raagaAt Raaga, an Indian restaurant on Leesburg Pike near Bailey’s Crossroads, the first element to delight the senses is not the smell of food, nor the sight of a well-appointed dining room, but the graceful sounds of a plucked sitar rolling through melodies. It is almost as though the tune, like that of the Pied Piper, lures potential diners to their seats, but this particular fairy tale has a happy ending, its plot composed of delicious curries and spiced vegetable-stuffed pastry treats.

Within the spacious restaurant, its name meaning “sweet melody,” they claim, the music is the backdrop to a dining experience that begins with the choice of appetizers, from the $4.95 Aloo Papri to the $8.95 Salmon Kebab. Two platters feature an assortment of treats from across the Raaga menu – the Mixed Vegetable Platter ($5.95) and the Assorted Platter ($8.95). On the Mixed Vegetable Platter, deep-fried vegetable pieces accompany the stand-out samosas, turnovers stuffed with spice-seasoned bits of potato and green peas. The pastry shell is relatively thin, lending some crunch to the delicious vegetable blend without detracting from it. The Assorted Platter provides a taste of the meats the restaurant serves, like the chicken tikka. With the platter, two boneless pieces of the clay-oven cooked chicken are served, vivid with the red tones of the spices applied in marinating with yogurt and lemon juice that sink into the meat. Though firm and somewhat charred on the outside, the clay-oven cooking renders the meat beneath wonderfully tender and juicy. Also on the Assorted Platter are pieces of aloo tikki (fried potato patties) and seekh kebab (tiny logs made of seasoned ground lamb), which don’t disappoint.

Entree offerings include a full menu section of Tandoori Specialties, featuring other items that have gotten the clay-oven treatment, from the $10.95 Tandoori Tofu to the $24.95 Lamb Chops. The remaining entree selections are divided into Seafood, Vegetable, Chicken, and Lamb Specialties, the greatest number offered in the vegetable-focused section of the menu.

Among the Vegetable Specialties is the Palak Paneer ($12.95). An ample helping of the dish comes to the table elegantly served in a copper bowl, ready to be scooped onto the plate and enjoyed along with pea-dotted basmati rice. The Palak Paneer offers spinach cooked creamy in a blend of spices. Cubes of homemade cottage cheese mixed throughout the dish bring a mild cheese flavor that complements the spiced spinach.

Chicken Tikka Masala ($14.95) – a house specialty, says the menu – is one of several options focused on a meat-and-sauce blend instead of well-seasoned vegetables. The dish serves pieces of tender chicken in a rich, creamy sauce. The dish can be cooked at different heat levels, and the mild variety makes for a flavorful curry, with few spicy notes, that delivers an excellent buttery flavor.

An Indian Breads menu section gives diners another starch option to accompany their meal. The Nan, a flat, flour-based bread, comes in several different varieties, be it stuffed with garlic or lamb, or cooked with nuts and raisins, but ordering the standard ($2.95) brings a large round piece of bread, warm from the kitchen, to the table. With its fluffy texture and mild flavor, ideal for dipping into sauces and picking up bits of meat and vegetable, it ensures that no drop of Raaga’s well-made curries goes to waste.

Raaga is located at 5872 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-998-7000 or visit raagarestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Saturday: Noon – 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday: Noon – 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.