Classic Tables: The Bombay Club

A cardamom-spiced step back in time

Restaurants in this town turn over more frequently than Congressional administrations.

But The Bombay Club is a time capsule offering an older, more genteel Washington.

Inside the stately dining room, men wear dinner jackets, and black-and-white pictures of colonial India hang on the walls. Off the foyer, a pianist at a gleaming white baby grand tackles jazz standards, show tunes and, at this time of year, jaunty Christmas music.

This combination sets the ideal scene for chef Nilesh Singhvi's pan-Indian cuisine. Bhalla papri chaat ($8) ladles date-tamarind sauce, yogurt and cilantro chutney over cold lentil dumplings and crisp rice crackers for a study in textural contrasts.

Chiles and coconut milk form the fiery broth of Goan fish curry ($20). The creamy sauce warrants extra orders of puffy garlic naan ($3.50) long after the last pieces of tender halibut have been claimed.

Lamb vindaloo ($18) is a reliable test of a kitchen's prowess. If it's too mild, the kitchen is pandering to uneasy taste buds. Too spicy, and the dish is chile-fueled bravado. The Bombay Club reaches a nuanced middle ground of not only vinegar-based heat, but also cardamom, cinnamon and onions.

It's cooking that has already stood the test of time.

The Bombay Club, 815 Connecticut Ave. NW (between H & I sts.); 202-659-3727 or bombayclubdc.com