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Raaga, North Indian in Bailey's Crossroads - In the Former Bangkok Street Grill and Noodles Space on Leesburg Pike


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Ate at Raaga tonight with some friends. We're picking a restaurant to cater a retirement luncheon, so we picked a menu similar to what we've tried elsewhere to get a fairly apples-to-apples comparison on flavors and pricing: Samosas, Butter chicken, veggie korma, and an eggplant dish, with assorted breads. I very much liked Raaga's rendition of the butter chicken; I know the recipe was originally concocted using tinned tomato soup as a base for the sauce, but Raaga's sauce was lovely and missing the obvious tinned soup flavor. The veggie korma was also quite good, although a bit heavy on potatoes compared to other vegetables. Eggplant was outstanding; I don't recall the exact name of this dish, but a stewy consistency and had a slightly sweet-sour component to the flavor profile. A big hit at the table. Breads were good, although I like my naan with a very buttery flavor and it was just average here. We also had the Palak Chaat appetizer which was very nice as well. I haven't been to Rasika to know how it compares, but I definitely would order it again.

Four of us, two glasses of wine, a table full of food, a pleasant atmosphere and attentive friendly correct service, all for $90 before tip. I'll definitely be back to explore more.

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What are the most interesting vegetarian apps and mains? We going there for dinner tomorrow.

Raaga deserves more love. We had dinner there recently with a Groupon and found the North Indian cooking a welcome change from the fire and spices of the South. Cubes of cottage cheese were delicate and delicious. Small pieces of Chicken Tikka in a sublte sauce were ever so tender. But the place was almost empty on a Thursday evening.

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The craving hit last night for Indian flavors in the northwest Alexandria/Arlington/Falls Church corridor. The uber-casual Kohinoor Dhaba, with it’s steep stairs and my damp-weather Knees of FailTM, did not appeal. Haandi seemed a viable option, but Route 7 blocked us with it’s Golden Globe-winning performance of a parking lot.

So to Raaga we ventured, too shy to cross the Potomac for Masala Art (my kingdom for a teleporter!). We may have hit the scene on a bad night of post-holiday apathy, but Raaga appears to be a restaurant in decline.

I’ve visited Raaga maybe a half dozen times over the past several years. Flavors have been firmly in the OK-to-good camp, nothing show-stopping with interest or complexity, but generally an apt rendition of tandoori, curry, and vegetable favorites with decent-to-good quality ingredients.

On our recent visit, a few circumstances culminated in what is likely my last visit to this restaurant. One was my mental note that the dining room seems to have stagnated for many years without an upgrade. The lighting continually flickered as we ate, the furniture and carpet looked worn in places. While sitars, golden elephants, and a few other adornments appear scattered throughout, the visually striking venue I used to know has left the building. This seems more a function of time and age than any willful downward adjustment.

However, my other observations reflected clear choices of the staff to downgrade the dining experience. One issue started with acoustics, and then evolved into a service blight. As we were seated in the charming booths at the front of the restaurant, I was immediately distracted from my companion’s conversation by a perpetual beeping tone every five seconds. The sound was exactly like that of a hospital's intensive care unit, neither a fond nor welcomed set of memories. I twice asked our server to fix the sound, who commented in an amused demeanor “we’ll try, it’s been like that for days”. He did not fix the problem, did not report back on status, did not empathize with or share my obvious concern, and did not offer the opportunity to change tables or make other adjustments. Other service blips followed, surprising for a nearly empty restaurant. No one conducted the “quality check” within a few moments of food delivery, leaving us without a forgotten condiment for upwards of ten minutes. These and other service misplays, with zero acknowledgement or visit from a manager, indicate a staff either willfully out of touch or unable to deliver customer comfort or care.

A second warning sign was when I ordered seafood masala. (User Error Alert: What genius took up residence in my skull telling me to order seafood, midweek, the day after a holiday, I cannot recall.) The server asked if spicy would be OK, and since I was auditioning for my own award-winning performance of Agreeable Airhead, I said yes. My companion’s lamb vindaloo ($16.95) was deliciously deep to savor, tasting long-stewed and carefully constructed. The rice and the assorted bread basket ($8.95) featuring roti, garlic naan, and onion kulcha were unremarkable, but fine. The Raita ($2.95) was more liquefied than expected, but tasted fresh with clean yogurt flavor. However, my dish of shrimp, scallop, and salmon masala ($17.95) tasted of tomato-forward, hastily composed ingredients spiced up to mask off flavors. I ate little, said nothing, and resigned myself to bread and borrowed vindaloo sauce.

A single bad dish and poor service on an off night might not portend the end. Reflecting on their business model, the lunch buffet may be what keeps this restaurant going, being popular with the local office crowd. But the types of errors I experienced, and the accompanying apathy, are not the harbingers of dinner excellence, effective management, nor good value.

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We got delivery from Raaga the other night.  I forget what dish Matt had, a curry of some sort, he was excited because it isn't a normal dish found on every Indian menu, but is one he likes.  I had a bite and it was really good, I feel bad for forgetting.  I had the chicken briyani which was great (Haandi is a little bit better though).  We got two breads, vegetable balls as appetizers too.  I really liked everything and thought it held up really well in delivery.  It had been a while since we had been to the actual restaurant, but reminded us that we should go back.  They were on Amazon delivery, for which we had a coupon.

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Total blast from the past. I used to work in Bailey's Crossroads, and I and my work colleagues loved the lunch buffet at Raaga. This was 10+ years ago. We'd always try to go when they had "CTM" (chicken tikka masala) on the buffet, but I liked all the usual buffet options. It was usually mobbed at lunchtime. I had to go back to Bailey's for a work obligation a couple of years ago and made a special effort to meet a couple of former work colleagues for lunch at Raaga. I don't remember that the buffet was any different than all those years ago. The servers were always really nice, too. When I was a regular back in the day they would remember me when I would visit. Now I'm craving Indian food.

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We ordered from here using the Amazon deal.  CTM and lamb biryani.  Both were solid.  The spice was more complex than I expected, so I was pleased.  It wasn't Haandi good but good enough to add it to the delivery rotation.  As FYI - the amazon delivery was 33 minutes from order to food on the doorstep.  A very nice delivery guy.  I was impressed.

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