Merzi: “The Indian Chipotle”

The Chipotle chain is such a recognizable entity that when a restaurant is referred to as “The Indian Chipotle,” I think most everyone understands what that means.

The restaurant is Merzi in Penn Quarter, and the comparisons with Chipotle are accurate. Both present a mainstream interpretation of authentic cuisines — Mexican at Chipotle, Indian at Merzi. Both feature a food counter offering a few base dishes and the option of additional toppings and condiments. Both can be considered “fast food” — you’re in and out of the line in a matter of minutes. And both are decently priced, though Chipotle is more so.

Here’s what I got: a samosa, and a rice bowl with tandisserie chicken (tandoori meets rotisserie), chickpeas, corn and a generous ladling of “hot” sauce.

My co-worker ordered a dish with “medium” sauce, and judging by her cries of discomfort, it just about burned a hole in her tongue.  If the medium sauce was that atomic, what was in store with the hot? I was frightened.  The last thing you want to do at work is spend the bulk of the afternoon in the bathroom.

In the end, no problems. The sauce was hot, but pleasantly so.  Just right. Or, at least it was to my Chinese-American palate that’s been raised on spicy food.

For real-deal Indian cuisine, this probably isn’t it. But for quick food that’s got fairly good Indian flavors, Merzi fits the bill.  And if you prefer, you can taste test those sauces before ordering. No need to give yourself a bleeding ulcer.

415 7th St.
Washington, DC

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