Opulent Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter reopens with even more sophisticated prix-fixe menu

The ultra-luxury Indian restaurant Punjab Grill is reopening after a pandemic break with a new identity and a new chef. The team behind Punjab Grill just announced plans to revive the flashy Penn Quarter space (427 11th Street NW) on Tuesday, May 31, as Rania.

The new name means “Queen” in Hindi and Sanskrit, which is fitting given that the restaurant has retained its palace decor. International restaurateur Karan Karan’s 4,700-square-foot centerpiece garnered plenty of attention when it opened in 2019, thanks to ornate details like white mother-of-pearl inlays throughout, a chiseled 40-foot piece of solid pink sandstone covering the length of the bar and a private dining room surrounded by 150,000 hand-laid mirrors.

While Rania will look familiar, a new chef is at the helm (Punjab Grill chef Jaspratap “Jassi” Bindra recently decamped to Houston to open a luxury Indian restaurant there).

Rania’s executive chef is Chetan Shetty, who recently cooked at famous restaurant in New Delhi Indian accent that added an outpost in New York. Shetty will guide diners through a multi-course dinner of inventive Indian cuisine that goes above and beyond (as in dishes like braised lamb shank topped with spinach, coconut mousse, a mixture of ghoda masala spices and mustard frills).

Unlike the Punjab Grill, Rania will focus on a three-course ($75) or four-course ($90) prix-fixe menu, with a chef’s tasting menu ($125) debuting soon. An a la carte menu will be available at the restaurant’s Sundowner bar.

Rania will serve prime rib with saffron nihari, charred broccoli rabe and pickled mustard
Greg Powers for Rania

Try the shiso leaf chaat served with white pea ragda, green mango and mint
Greg Powers for Rania

At Rania, meals begin with a first course like the sculptural shiso leaf chaat, flavored with white pea ragda, green mango and mint. Entrees include homemade paneer accented with spring peas and pecorino, or prime rib with saffron nihari, charred broccoli rabe and pickled mustard.

Diners opting for the prix fixe menu can add cocktails or wine pairings, with April Busch – formerly of New York’s two-star Michelin restaurant Atera – leading the wine program.

The cocktail list includes the namesake Rania, with Jin Jiji Gin, Zirbenz, pine liqueur, lime, and tea cordial.
Greg Powers for Rania

Shetty plans to import rare spices from India, which will enhance Rania’s dinner menu and cocktail program. The drinks also lean into Indian spirits and fruits from local farms. The Pineapple Kolada uses a blend of spiced rum, kaffir coconut cream, zerish cordial and sour pineapple, while a Desi Gimlet includes yoghurt, Ketel One, dry vermouth, lime, butter syrup and orange bitters.

The dining room of the Punjab Grill with golden walls

The Punjab Grill’s lavish décor – from the dining room to its private Hall of Mirrors – is virtually unchanged save for new table settings and lighting
Rey Lopez / Eater DC

A private dining room at the Punjab Grill is covered in 150,000 hand-laid mirrors.

A 10-seat private dining room at the Punjab Grill is covered in 150,000 hand-laid mirrors.
Rey Lopez / Eater DC

The Punjab Grill’s much-hyped ‘Sheesh Mahal’ – its private palace of mirrors dining room hidden off to the side – will return to Rania this summer as a chic setting for a chef’s table menu, Hermès plates and all. Diners can make a reservation on their own for the communal experience, or fully reserve the space for groups of eight or more.

Rania will be open for dinner service from Tuesday to Sunday, and Reservations are strongly encouraged. Rania accepts walk-in customers in the Sundowner bar and subject to availability in the dining room.

Freeda S. Scott