Image: Arrayed at Rania.
Last Updated: December 2022
The setting remains largely the same from when this place was Punjab Grill. The owner is also the same, as are the fine dining touches. The name change matches a menu change. The food remains excellent. It is still fancy Indian, but with playful touches. The format is prix-fixe, with the ability to pick from one of a handful of dishes under the first course, second course, or main course options. The first and second course are not little bites, and the meal will likely leave you full, if not with leftovers.
The new chef, Chetan Shetty, does not limit his imagination. The artfulness of the plating gives way to serious bites of food. The components are thoughtfully balanced with variations of textures, flavors and spice. Nothing overpowers another element. The first course had some impressive options, including the chaat with the greens encased in a breaded leaf standing upright. The chickpea panisse is a clear crowd pleaser. The meats of the main course options were all rich and filling. A couple desserts are available as the final course.
The wine list remains pretty deep, and the new wine director, April Busch, was able to go in new directions from the old list. She described the approach, “Wines we like tend to have good fruit structure, lower alcohol levels and great acidity. In addition, we are really trying to work with small family owned and run wineries and focus on natural and biodynamic producers.”
The place seems a little less contrived than recollections of Punjab Grill, but there were a few service quirks, including a long delay in offering food menus after being seated, possibly to push a pre-meal drink. The wine on the night we went was not chilled much below room temperature for the whites and the rose by the glass.
Rania is the kind of old school downtown restaurants, like its Indian counterpart Rasika, the Spanish stalwart Taberna al Alabardero, and of course Tosca, whose ranks are dwindling to a few. For a special night out, in an ornate setting (without the tablecloths though), with food that will impress it fills that niche.
Other Guidance: As noted above, it is a fancy setting. You might get away with shorts and t-shirt, but it would be out of place. It is located at street level. There may be one step on the inside to navigate. The Post indicates no barriers at entry; restrooms are ADA-compliant. One of the great things about Indian is that it is heavy on GF and vegetarian options.
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Rick Eats DC: Listed as one of the places he visited when taking a break from posting. “Some of the best dishes can be found in the opening course.”