Passage to India tonight with 9 guys. Not sure why the Washingtonian gave it 3 stars and Indique only 2...
This is the reason I chose this restaurant for our monthly Guy's Night Out this month...
It certainly was a pretty dining room, I will say that. It took them forever to bring our food though - any of it. I ordered the Samosa appetizer and it was decent, but didn't hold a candle to the one we had at Indique or even Rasika. The doughy part tasted fair and the surrounding chick peas seemed kind of drab in flavor. The bread finally came out and it was OK (the spicy hard bread and the Naan). One of the breads had potato in it and was pretty good but the Naan seemed kind of heavy and soggy, not light and fluffy like I'd had at some of my other favorite Indian places.
The Shrimp dish he recommended in the light coconut sauce was ok I guess but nothing to write home about. The rice and veggie salad that came with each entree though was different than I'm used to having and very pleasant. The best dish we ordered was the spinach with corn - that was the shining star of the meal. Other people who showed up for this dinner said they really liked their meal (various chicken and lamb dishes), but frankly, I was disappointed. The main meal took about an hour to come out and we kept asking when it would come. At other Indian places we've been to the food came out alot faster.
The mango lassi drink was delicious but I thought the food at Rasika and Indique blew this food away, but that's just me. The waiter did take a while to clear away drink glasses even though they didn't look to be too busy. I kept looking at my empty glass wondering where the waiter was even after 10 minutes went by.
I was really surprised to see how highly they are ranked on the Washingtonian website.
Oh well... I've always wanted to try this restaurant, and now I have. It wasn't bad, it was just underwhelming. Next month we're going to try Corduroy - finally. I've been dying to try them too.
Silver Spring MD
The question in the heading of your post is interesting and probably deserves a thread of its very own. Why does Washingtonian Magazine rate these restaurants so differently from the Washington Post or the opinions expressed on Chowhound? Even at the Post there are different sets of reviews - Sietsema's and the ones in the Weekend and Sunday Source sections - and they often vary. The Washingtonian list doesn't include most of its advertisers, nor does the Post. The Washington Times is rarely critical. The reviews at City Paper and the Current Newspapers are another story.
They all have different demographics. They review the restaurants their subscribers want to know about and are likely to patronize. To a great extent they view the restaurants from the point of view of their subscribers, not from any objective standard. There isn't an objective standard because food is about taste. Chacun a son gout.
There is a file in my guest room that includes most of them for the past two years and I pull out the best ones for each new guest according to what I think they're most likely to enjoy. It's about editing the editors. Knowing what my friends are likely to love or loathe.
Not much different from what the food critics at Washingtonian did with sprinkling more stars on Passage to India than Indique.
A simple search on Chowhound would have turned up my post from a year ago, which I still stand by:
Want to know how to have a great meal at Passage to India in Bethesda? Order the roti plain, (it will come out hot and fresh and crispy) and turn to the back page of the menu for their condiments, especially the pickles and the spices. And....then just stop there. Or order anything else. The pickles and the spices are so good, they could make footwear taste delicious.
For the record, other items I tried were the potato dish from the South Indian section, the lotus stem from the North Indian section, the black lentils, and the lamb korma. The potatoes, lotus stem, and lentils were beautifully spiced, carefully prepared, and thoroughly satisfying. The lamb was forgettable. They have many interesting vegetarian selections here, this is probably where the gold is.
Getting back to the condiments: go, go, go and try these. This is one of Washington's best spots for a Chowhound.
Steve - You're right, I didn't remember what you said to stay away from and what to order. Guess maybe I should have taken notes, but didn't feel like I needed to to have a great meal there. I just went there with the idea of ordering whatever looked good, and whatever the waiter recommended to me, like I usually do. In the future though, I'll tell ya, I'll stick you vegetarian when I do Indian Restaurants. I won't eat chicken, fish or meat at an Indian restaurant any way, so I thought shrimp might work well.
While on the topic of Indian restaurants we have a reservation for the Bombay Club for restaurant week. It is years since we went and then it was definitely a cut above other Indian restaurants. Since it is not on the Washingtonian top 100 I am wondering if we should change our mind about going?
Your report seems reasonable and balanced, but . . .
Really, how much difference can you expect between a 2 star and a 3 star restaurant on what I assume is a scale of 1-5 (hopefully not 10)? It's just one writer's opinion. It sounds to me like you had a decent dinner and with that many fussy people, I'd say that "decent" is a good average.
Based on your previous thread to choose the restaurant, you have pretty high standards (and a lot of requirements) and you've already been to a lot of restaurants. Ever think that you might be getting pretty close to the middle of the barrel?
I'd be curious to see a graph of your ratings of restaurants your group has visited over the time period you've been doing these dinners. My guess is that after an initial period of experimentation, your ratings would be pretty high for a while, and then start dropping slowly with a few spikes when an exciting new restaurant comes along. You have an interesting long term experiment.
MikeR - You have a point. My expectation are too high, I think. I go to a place like Indique and super-enjoy the atmosphere, the scene, the food, the specific company we were with, the wild crazy weather situation that occurred that night (freakishly high winds and rain made it exciting) and then we go to Passage to India on a quiet Thursday night in January with warm weather and average but good food and it pales in comparison in my mind. That's not fair in a way...
We've done the guy's night out once a month for 10 years now and have hit tons of restaurants, so the "next one" can't always top the past ones. It's not like we're going to Maestro, Palena or Citi Zen where it would naturally eclipse the previous 5-10 restaurants we tried.