I’ve been rewatching Michael Wood’s documentary series The Story of India. Everything that the British historian touches is deeply imbued with his outsized enthusiasm for his subject, which of course in this case makes me crave Indian food. Also, train travel. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the show, it’s that racing through the countryside on a train is a key part of the experience of exploring the subcontinent. Lucky for me, one of my favorite restaurants in NoVA has just unveiled a new meal that captures the flavors of dining in motion.
Celebration by Rupa Vira was No. 10 on my most recent Best Restaurants list. I love it for its modern, cheffy interpretations of Indian classics, as well as original dishes. Earlier this month, Vira debuted brunch service on Saturday and Sunday, and I couldn’t bear to wait long to try it. Not when I had visions of Wood, chugging along with a masala chai in hand, dancing in my head.
I ended up skipping the tea, because I had a laser focus on a single dish. I needed a Railway Breakfast. According to the menu, chef Vira was inspired by breakfast served on Indian trains. But leave it to her to take that basic meal to another level.
Spicy masala aloo, potatoes freckled with mustard and cumin seeds, is served in a mound topped with fresh cilantro. A single crackly-edged egg is ideally soft in the center, hot and ready to be scooped up with buttery, flaky triangles of paratha. Tomatoes still attached to the vine are charred on the outside but still sweet and cool within. For an additional fee, diners can add mushrooms, lamb chops, salmon, or chicken to the plate. I chose deeply marinated thighs of fork-tender chicken tikka, which are delightful when swiped in the herbaceous chutney dolloped on the side of the plate.
I also tried the Nimish Toast, French toast served with makhan malai, fluffy spiced cream, and fresh fruit. With just two thin slices of bread, I thought that the portion was paltry for $14–a side of eggs or meat would make it seem more worthwhile. Other brunch choices include Eggs Bollywood, Vira’s take on a Benedict with creamy makhni sauce instead of hollandaise. There are South Indian idlis and upma, a porridge-like bowl of oats and vermicelli, too. There’s much more to explore on the menu, but whatever else I pick, I will likely be ordering a Railway Breakfast to accompany it.
44260 Ice Rink Plaza, Ste. 120, Ashburn
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