Atul Bhola of Masala Art

It happens to rock bands all the time: They start rolling in dough and having to push through a barricade of groupies on the way from the green room, and suddenly their music turns to crap. It can happen to restaurants, too. But while there are signs that Masala Art, the breakout star of Tenleytown, is suffering under the weight of the acclaim heaped on it since it opened last year—the crowds can sometimes be more than the servers and kitchen can handle—the restaurant remains a destination for those in search of sophisticated Indian cooking. Owner Atul Bhola researched hundreds of dishes and narrowed the field to the 60 or so on Masala’s menu, most of them from the cuisines of Northern India but with occasional forays into the South, such as the fried and fiery Chicken 65 appetizer. The lamb vindaloo brings the heat like Stephen Strasburg, and the butter chicken rolls over the tongue creamy, sweet, tart, and spicy. Go during a less-crowded time and you’ll taste for yourself that chef Surinder Kumar hasn’t let success go to his head.

4441 Wisconsin Ave. NW (202) 362-4441

Photo by Darrow Montgomery