Weekend Feed: Indian Ocean in Cleveland Park
If any man has reason to reign in the fattier excesses of Indian cooking, it’s Raj Kapoor, owner of Indian Ocean. Kapoor’s 67-year-old father died in 1994 from a heart attack, followed shortly thereafter by his 41-year-old brother, who dropped dead at the breakfast table. Three years later, the restaurateur’s 63-year-old mother died from a heart attack. Then in 2002, Kapoor had his own run-in with heart disease. The rash of tragedies helps explain why you won’t find a single stick of butter at Indian Ocean. The chefs here brush their naan with olive oil, not ghee. They substitute oil for butter (or shortening) in the samosa dough. They use a yogurt “cream” instead of butter and heavy cream in their chicken tikka makhani—better known as butter chicken—and then squeeze clover honey into the dish to provide the necessary sweetness. The results are startlingly good. The slightly soupy butter chicken may not have its usual heft, but there’s enough body to ferry all the flavors—the cinnamon, tomato, nutmeg, and fenugreek. The cauliflower and potatoes in the deeply aromatic aloo gobi benefit from steam cooking, which in particular gives the turmeric-tinted florets far more crunch than the standard sauté. You won’t even miss the ghee on your naan, which is satisfyingly chewy and bubbly. In keeping with its heart-healthy cuisine, Indian Ocean also leans on the Goan tradition of fresh fish, including a seafood curry that includes more than its share of chewy, overcooked scallops, calamari, and mussels in a lush, fragrant broth that deserves much better.