I am generally pretty dismissive of the restaurant scene in Bethesda, particularly downtown Bethesda. I find the food mostly uninspired and often mediocre (with a few exceptions). So when some friends suggested we go to Passage to India, an (obviously) Indian restaurant in downtown Bethesda, we agreed but were skeptical.
We were pleasantly surprised with what we discovered. The restaurant itself was quiet and decorated with pictures of various Indian rulers on the walls. The menu was divided into the different regional cuisines. (I loved that touch—normally, you have no idea what part of India your dishes are from.)
Our friends are pescatarian, so we started with the Samosa Chaat, vegetarian samosas on a bed of chickpeas drizzled with yogurt and the Fritter Platter, an assortment of vegetable fritters. Both dishes were adequate but hardly worth mentioning.
The restaurant’s strength is clearly its main dishes. We picked two East Indian dishes: Shorshe Bata Maach, fish in freshly ground mustard sauce and the Aloo Phoolkopir Dalna (cauliflower and potatoes with freshly ground cumin and ginger). We also had a West Indian dish, the Fish Konkan Curry, fish fillets in a sauce flavored with kokum, curry leaf, and coconut milk. And from South India, we had the Baingan Mirchi Ka Salan, baby eggplants and jalapenos simmered in sesame-peanut gravy. We also had assorted flavors of Nan, mango chutney (which the menu states is a “British contributed condiment”—love that!) and the pickle platter, with house made pickles.
All the dishes were excellent! The Shorshe Bata Maach was perhaps the most unique dish we’ve tried, but they were all delicious. All the side dishes were wonderful as well, even the one contributed by the British.
We will definitely return and try some of the meat dishes next time. Passage to India is located at 4931 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, MD (www.passagetoindia.info).