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Raw Silk & Light Horse in Old Town Alexandria

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  • sweth Jan 16, 2009 07:29 PM
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Tried out Light Horse on King St last night as part of a birthday happy hour for a coworker, and noticed that Raw Silk next door was open, so I tried out the latter today as well. Quick summary: both are very welcome additions to Old Town, especially Raw Silk.

Light Horse is a pretty typical good pub, w/ good happy hour beer specials (most drafts $2.50) and pretty good pub food, especially for those of us who enjoy clogging our arteries with things like a burger stuffed with cheddar, or a burger topped with bacon and a fried egg. (I may have to return to try to convince them to top the stuffed burger w/ the fried egg.) Sweet potato fries were also quite good, and the less said about the bacon mayonnaise that the fries came with, the less guilty I'll feel. (There may actually have been some healthy food on the menu; I saw "fried egg on a burger", though, and stopped reading.) So, as I said: a good pub, and I'll probably be returning. (if anyone cares, one of my group said that the owners are John (the bartender) from Rustico and one of the daughters of the Landinis.)

Far more startling for Old Town, though, is Raw Silk, which replaces the execrable and insipid Taj Palace; for the first time in a decade, there's now actually North Indian food in Old Town that's worth eating. I was too tired to order well, and thus accidentally ended up w/ a serious carb overload: a chaat papri appetizer, lamb vindaloo, and aloo gobi, all three of which feature potatoes prominently. With that caveat, though, the food was very good: the flavors were nicely layered and not at all Americanized, the food was about as non-greasy as authentic N. Indian food can be, and the portions were pretty good. The vindaloo wasn't sinus-burning spicy, which to some people I know would mean it wasn't a vindaloo, but I (normally a pepper fiend) found the spiciness just right, since it didn't overwhelm the flavor. The restaurant was almost empty (which I'm hoping is because they've been open for less than a week and because it was 14 degrees out when I was there, and not because Old Town can't support an actual good Indian restaurant after 10 years of keeping Taj Palace in business), so I also ended up chatting with the owners (Jasmine & Tharun?) a bit about their plans. They've converted the back into a neat little bar/lounge, and are trying hard not to fall back on luring in crowds w/ a crappy buffet like T.P. had (can you tell I'm happy that that place is gone?); instead, they're trying out a "lunch platter" idea that sounds like an Indian bento box.

So to sum up: both places get a thumbs up. If you've got to choose between them, I'm going to plead for Raw Silk, given that Light Horse was hopping last night, and that I'm not willing to wait another decade for more good Indian food in Old Town if Raw Silk can't stay afloat. (The biggest hurdle they might face is the prices: around $13-20 per entree, which isn't out of line for either the quality of food they're serving or for the location, but which in my experience is more than many people will pay for Indian food because they're so used to the stereotypical $10 Indian buffet.)

(Hrm. The link to add a place doesn't seem to be working. Raw Silk is 719 King St, and Light Horse is 715 King St.)

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Raw Silk
719 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

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  1. thanks, sweth. first, i'm gonna be all over that bacon mayo with crispy fries!!!!

    second, i'm happy to learn of a new indian place. you might be interested in this article, since you like northern indian cuisine: http://www.answers.com/topic/moghul-i...

    or this thread, if you cook: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588356

    ps tell raw silk to submit a menu to menupages, and get a website. light horse, too. light horse does have a "myspace' blog. but no menu! http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?...

    7 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      here's the website for light horse: http://www.thelighthorserestaurant.com/
      thanks for the report, I was wondering about this place.

      1. re: cheesepowder

        aha, i didn't look far enough down on my google search. btw, how does one get one's site like that bumped to the top?

        1. re: cheesepowder

          I grabbed a carryout menu from Raw Silk, and it claims that their website is "www.rawsilk.biz", but that's currently just a parked page at GoDaddy. When I was there, I overheard one of the owners talking to some folks at another table about website-related topics, so I'm guessing they are still in the process of getting their site up.

          Good to see from Light Horse's website that they do have at least a few items on the menu that I won't have to feel guilty about ordering. (The menu also reminds me that others in the group that I was there with had grilled cheeses and soups, and seemed pretty happy with those, as well.)

          1. re: sweth

            not really on topic, but that is the only ".biz" address i know of. they'd be better off with "rawsilkrestaurant.com" or "rawsilkalexandria.com" -- if they're reading this thread......

            but i guess google would google the biz just as well. but if "restaurant" or "alexandria" -- or some distinguisher -- is in the search, all the places which sell real raw silk in the whole u.s.a. won't take search results precedence, imo.

            sweth, is that bacon mayo (i almost typed "bayo") just ground up cooked bacon blended into mayo?

            1. re: alkapal

              (I prefer "baconnaise" to "bayo".) There didn't appear to be anything blended in; it was just mayo w/ a strong bacon flavor--probably made w/ the rendered fat from bacon rather than with oil.

              1. re: sweth

                boy, can you imagine mayo made with bacon fat instead of oil? why wouldn't it break the egg?
                you've seen this, right?
                http://www.baconnaise.com/
                maybe they buy in bulk? (i think that'd be pricey!).

        2. re: alkapal

          North Indian is actually probably not even in my top five Asian cuisines. But it's just ridiculous that there's been no good N. Indian place in Old Town.

          I'm also still waiting for a good Chinese place...

        3. (It looks like the "add a place" feature works but just doesn't show up for me as having worked when I'm posting. So I'll try to add Light Horse to this thread, too.)

          -----
          The Light Horse
          715 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

          1. Glad to see a quick review here. I agree that Taj was uninspired over the years and the quality of the food was lacking. However, I question whether Raw Silk is a step in the right direction for the lunch crowd. They have removed the buffet, which is the lunch and weekend staple of Indian restaurants (at least on the East Coast). Second, my order took 32 minutes to be delivered from order to delivery (I texted someone after the order, so have an exact time). Finally, my items(muttar paneer and dal makhni) were way too oily and heavy in the way that separates genuinely good indian food and 'cheap good. Cheap good is when they load on ghee to enhance flavor, yet leaves you heavy and bloated. I am vegetarian, so this one of only two options (veggie korma was the other), so maybe that had something to do with it they have on the lunch menu. All three of these factors are huge no-nos for a proper lunch restaurant. The typical person is on a lunch break, has hours of work left and cannot be bogged down by spending over 1 hour sitting in a restaurant (was not just me, the woman across from me ordered her dessert go go because she had been there even longer!) to get heavy food. I must confess that the samosas were terrific - well seasoned and sized perfectly.

            Perhaps this is much better for a proper dinner. If you are going to do it right, you need a lunch buffet that is light (but yes, more inspired with quality and variety than taj) and a proper menu for dinner. Don't just throw ghee and call it authentic. You can make with less ghee and better spicing. As much as they were uninspired, Taj's veggie curries were lighter and spiced better than Raw Silk.

            To top it all off, my water had a gnat in it. The server apologized, but did not offer to make my mango lassi complementary, which was the least they could do. I told the server discreetly, who did promptly apologize and give me a new glass. But that was the LEAST she could do.

            All in all, this experience was far from what one needs from a lunchtime experience. As a fan of Indian food and working in the area, I really want to see a good Indian restaurant succeed. Despite their shortcomings, Taj was a better lunch bet for me than Raw Silk. Hopefully, this won't be the case next time.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jamesbhai

              a gnat! means the glass was sitting around, and a gnat fell in. <boy, if you type gnat a couple of times, the word gnat starts to look really funny ;-)>

              gnats (or their little cousins http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/home/e... ) to me mean that one or more of their dry goods -- probably rice -- has bugs. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3008...

              eeeew, look at this: http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0907...

              and for you fa-gnat-ics: The males often assemble together in large mating swarms, particularly at dusk, called a "ghost". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnat

              it's the insect kingdom's equivalent of the bar scene. ;-).

              the only other time i think of gnats is summer, as they are flying around my face and annoying me.

              1. re: jamesbhai

                Hmmm, that sounds suspiciously like the service and food at the old Taj Palace. Are we sure this is more than just a name change?

                1. re: theoneontheleft

                  I'd get lulled into a false sense of hope and re-visit Taj Palace every few years, and every time, it was insipid swill. My one visit to Raw Silk was actually quite good, on the other hand. So *something* has changed in the kitchen. I don't remember the servers from T.P. enough to know if they were kept on.

                2. re: jamesbhai

                  When did this become a world when the slightest off-note requires a comped drink? A gnat fell in your water and drowned, so you were given a new glass of water. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

                  1. re: sweth

                    Actually, if you are trying to be higher end and are relatively new then it is fairly acceptable to comp a drink (that was already ordered). It's not required, as I did not make a big deal about it. However, if you were running your own restaurant, your embarrassment might be more than a mere replacement. If it were hair in your food, would you be so accommodating? Think of the things you never see. So, yeah, in the interest of a "make good" on something that never should have occurred (or the number of times such a thing occurs that go unreported), it seems fair.

                    The servers were not hold-overs from TP, but overall, TP servers came by more frequently then RS did. If anything, service was a downgrade or lateral.

                3. Quick followup on Lighthorse: stopped by a couple of days ago for a quick dinner, and tried the burger again for comparison; the burger was WAY overcooked (I ordered medium-rare, this was well-done), but the sweet potato fries were still good.

                  Next time, perhaps I'll try something in the non-burger realm...

                  1. I went to Raw Silk last night & was somewhat disappointed, particularly at the prices they charge. Their entrees are about 50% higher priced than most Indian restaurants & yet the quality of food & service do not match that.

                    I received the wrong item, but I was hungry so I didn't say anything. My friend never received the bread he ordered & our drinks took about 15 minutes or more to arrive. There were little touches missing that I'd expect if you're charging $15 for saag paneer, like the fact that the server just set down a bottle of beer & a glass & walked away without pouring it, and was unable to answer questions about one of the appetizers. My food was just okay. It was somewhat flavorless. My friend said his entree was not good at all.

                    In the end when the manager asked how things were & we mentioned the problems, she comped the entire check AND gave us a $25 gift certificate, which was unexpectedly generous.

                    Still, I can think of better Indian food around for quite a bit less money so I probably wouldn't return.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hitchcock73

                      you didn't say anything when you got the wrong dish.
                      your friend didn't remind the server about the bread he ordered.
                      shouldn't you have been a little more proactive?

                      i think $15 for saag paneer*** is quite pricey, and i agree the server was wrong about not pouring the beer, but i'd say you did pretty well in the end. flavorless food? well, that *is* a bigger issue, but maybe it was the dish you ordered. did you mention the food flavor issue to the manager, and if so, what did he say?

                      i go to a different indian restaurant, but i'd give a place another shot if they comped my meal and gave me a $25 gift certificate. i'm just sayin'.
                      ~~~~~
                      edit:
                      *** did you actually order saag paneer? what did you get instead, i.e., the "wrong" dish?

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Oh believe me, I wait tables & am very forgiving in these situations. Myself, i probably would not have complained. I ate the saag paneer because it was my second choice anyway & that was fine. Even as the friend was mentioning it I said it was ok & I hadn't said anything so that wasn't a big deal. My friend did mention the missing bread but by the time it came out we were done, so he asked for it to go.

                        My friend (he was really doing the talking here) mentioned the flavorless food & the manager apologized & that's when she comped everything, which I was pretty shocked about.

                        In general, being a server, I'm usually very easygoing when I go out to eat & would not have spoken up if it was just me, but based on the food itself, I still am in no hurry to return.

                        (And I can't remember what I actually ordered... something else vegetarian... either malai kofta or shahi paneer).