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Merzi, 7th and D Streets in Penn Quarter


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Had a nice time talking to Kas (Quas?), the owner/manager, of this new Indian place based on the Chipotle concept - you pick a base (chaat, rice, naan, salad), then add a protein and various sauces/toppings. He festures an option of rotisserie chichen, served in large, on-the-bone pieces, which is seriously yummy. I had that chicken on chaat (sauteed peppers and onions and chick peas) with the raw onion condiment and the hottest sauce offered. It's not Rasika, or is it trying to be, but it's a really good quick meal. The plate was under $8, the owner is charming, and all of his food is made to be lower in fat than traditional Indian food. Check it out if you're in Penn Quarter (7th and D, just north of Oyamel). However, Kas (Quas) said that he's slammed at lunch, so go early or late if you disdain lines.

As an aside, his rotisserie chicken, without sauce, is as good or better than Nando's, and the other flavor options will likely make me choose this over Nando's if I'm feeling like roasted chicken.

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Had a nice time talking to Kas (Quas?), the owner/manager, of this new Indian place based on the Chipotle concept - you pick a base (chaat, rice, naan, salad), then add a protein and various sauces/toppings. He festures an option of rotisserie chichen, served in large, on-the-bone pieces, which is seriously yummy. I had that chicken on chaat (sauteed peppers and onions and chick peas) with the raw onion condiment and the hottest sauce offered. It's not Rasika, or is it trying to be, but it's a really good quick meal. The plate was under $8, the owner is charming, and all of his food is made to be lower in fat than traditional Indian food. Check it out if you're in Penn Quarter (7th and D, just north of Oyamel). However, Kas (Quas) said that he's slammed at lunch, so go early or late if you disdain lines.

As an aside, his rotisserie chicken, without sauce, is as good or better than Nando's, and the other flavor options will likely make me choose this over Nando's if I'm feeling like roasted chicken.

Haven't had the rotisserie chicken, so can't comment on that, but if my watery, spiceless lamb chaat is any indication, "Indian Chipotle" is about right -- well-intentioned, and probably a moneymaker, but entirely generic; not worth a stop.

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I'm afraid that I have to agree with Marty at this point, except substitute chicken for lamb. It was fairly watery and the naan was doghy and tasteless. I also got the Chaat, and even with yogurt sauce, a warm sauce and a chutney (that's 3 sauces if you're counting at home), it was still fairly bland. The samosas were dry and crumbly too, but the potato tikka was actually quite good. Kind of disappointing, but still early in its genesis to dismiss it out of hand, and I would add that as an admirer of Chipotle (that's right!), this ain't no Chipotle!

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I had a good meal at Merzi on Friday. I got the tandisserie chicken on rice, with medium-hot sauce, and chickpeas. I found the chicken (leg and thigh) to be very moist and tender, and the medium-hot sauce had plenty of zing. The chickpeas were also tasty, and I don't normally like chickpeas because they are too often mushy. I thought these had a nice firm texture and plenty of seasoning. I also thought the portion size was more than ample. I would definitely try it again -- this was the first time I had been there. My only complaint was the take-out container was flimsy, and the lid didn't stay on -- they had to tape it with scotch tape, and I wasn't sure it would make it back to my office without leaking. Also, the container is made out of cardboard, and it "sweated' all over my desk. I'm all in favor or recyclable containers, but in this case, it wasn't very useful. I'd rather get a reusable plastic take-out container.

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I tried Merzi last Friday. I asked them to include two meats rather than one so I could sample more. Supposedly that’s normally upcharged to cost $1.99 more but I didn’t pay the premium this time. I went with the basic chicken and lamb over naan. I enjoyed the spicyness of the food but the chicken and lamb were chopped too finely (practically minced) for my preferences. That made it lose texture my taste buds associate with meat. I prefer larger chunks like you find with the Tasty Kabob food truck in Rosslyn.

I will give Merzi a few more tries. There are several other menu possibilities that intrigue me. I think I want to try the tandisserie chicken over rice next time.

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I went to Merzi last night (apparently lunch is slammed, but we didn't have to wait at dinner, which was nice). Had the tandisserie chicken over chaat (peppers and onions, chickpeas and blackeyed peas) with some of the other veggie toppings as well. I had them sauce half with the mild chutney and yogurt (the server recommended it with the chaat) and the other half with the medium warm sauce. Against my better judgment (since the plate was already quite overloaded) I also tested out a samosa and asked for some of the hot sauce in which to dip.

It was really a large amount of food for around $10 total and I thought pretty good. The medium sauce had a nice flavor and the hot had a good bit of kick without being overwhelming. I wasn't as much of a fan of the mild chutney, but that's mostly because I prefer spiciness. My chicken had been sitting out for a bit so wasn't amazing, but my friend managed to get a fresh piece that looked really good.

It's obviously not Rasika (or even Delhi Club or any of the other traditional Indian places), but I like the concept and the price point and all the options available. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there, but would try it again when in the area.

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I think if there only two possible votes on Merzi, mine is a "no" (with plans for a second attempt ordering a bit more intelligently). Looking back, even though I researched a bit and FELT like I was prepared walking in, my strategy crumbled and I ended up with a (very LARGE) bowl of random vegetarian elements........none of them really Indian to any discernible degree.......overwhelmed by THREE different (very liberally ladled on) sauces and chutneys...........and, ordering as I did, if I closed my eyes and you told me I WAS in a Chipotle....from the food, I would've believed it.....it just ended basically a big gloppy mess.....also quite a bit of heat (some combination I think of the Hot Onion Tomato Masala and some peppers and red onions...but honestly there were so many things in the bowl, it could've been from anything).....so......trying to reconstruct...here were my errors:

1. Using the "chaat" as my base....then piling on the veggie toppings from along the bar - - probably better to simplify by using rice or lettuce as the base, or going for the Naan sandwich (though the naan has been much-criticized)........

2. Piling on the non-Indian "toppings" along the way....the corn and the cucmbers in particular were a left turn i should've avoided...........

3. Saying yes to ALL the sauces and chutneys the staff (VERY and SINCERELY) pleasantly offered up......the "probiotic yogurt" they dish out isn't 'raita' as such....quite heavy and not seasoned at all that i could tell....the Hot Chutney came off as awfully mayonnaise-y......sort've a spicy russian dressing?.............but the Hot Sauce seemed a winner....like the sauce you'd expect on a butter chicken entree with a bit of extra heat....

So I guess what I'm saying is that there may well be elements on that bar that, if well assembled, would (a) preserve some semblance of an actual Indian cuisine experience; and (b ) permit individual elements to make statements and join into some somewhat structured flavor profile............I'm not CERTAIN that's the case....but I'd be willing to give it another shot.

Other observations- -staff seemed very well-trained and friendly (though a bit heavy on the sauce)....all under a managers watchful eye.....my friend who got chicken said it was a bit cold.....decor quite cool and does make you feel like you're in a happening spot....price certainly was right....i think because I skipped the meat/fish protein, I came in at under 7 bucks for a VERY generous plate of food.

W

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I have to agree with everything wlohmann said above. This is Indian-inspired in the same way that shaking some curry powder on chicken is curry chicken. And speaking of chicken, the Tandisserie tastes nothing of tandori chicken and had been basically cooked down to stringy mush.

That said, if you want a bowl of rice with some fresh veggies and vaguely Indian tasting chutneys/sauces slathered on top at a cheap price...then go for it. Otherwise it's a good concept that misses the bindi.

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