by Mary Beth Ray
ANC 3F03 commissioner and chair, Van Ness Vision Committee
Don’t let the drab Van Ness exterior fool you. Inside what must be one of the ugliest buildings in Washington, Laliguras Indian & Nepali Bistro will surround you with warm, vibrant colors, rich scents of India and Nepal, and cheerful, friendly service.
The freshly-painted claret red walls and bright, cozy pillows set the stage for the colorful meal to follow. My husband Sheldon and I arrived without a reservation last Friday night about 8 p.m., and plenty of tables were available. When word gets out about their good food, and when their liquor license comes through, that might change!
We started with Masala papads (papadams), a favorite from our years of eating Indian in Hong Kong. They were fresh, crisp, colorful and tasty, topped with onion, cilantro, tomato, and a delicious spicy garnish (guessing chat masala, but could also have been a combination of cumin and chili powder).
We ordered our three favorite Indian dishes: Baigan barta, Kashmiri lamb curry (similar to mutton roghanjosh), and Masala dahl. All three were delicious and enough to encourage us to return for more, and to branch out and try some of the other tempting offerings. The Baigan barta, an eggplant and tomato puree, was probably the spiciest of the three, enough to satisfy Sheldon’s asbestos taste buds, but not so spicy that I ran for more water. The lamb curry was nicely flavored, and while the meat was lean, it could have been more tender. I love it when the meat sort of falls apart in my mouth, and this was not quite there yet. Perhaps a longer, slower heat process? The yellow dahl, Sheldon’s favorite dish, was mushy and flavorful, just right.
We’re eager to try lots of other items on the menu – in particular the chicken tikka, the various Tandoori offerings, and the naan and other breads. We want to try the Nepali dishes as well. The chefs, two of whom are Nepali, have strong Washington pedigrees, having worked at Heritage India, Rasika, and the iconic Polo India Club.
In short, Laliguras is something of a metaphor for Van Ness right now – unattractive on the outside, warm, colorful and interesting on the inside, and a harbinger of great things to come!
Our dinner, including one appetizer, three main dishes to share, and a bottle of sparkling water, came to $47 without tip. Lunch prices are even more reasonable, with specials as low as $7. Laliguras will deliver for free, and it will do take out at lunch. Laliguras Indian & Nepali Bistro is at 4221-B Connecticut Avenue NW, (202) 735-5097. It’s open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. Its website is laligurasdc.com.