One of the busiest blocks in the city is about to get a colorful new dining destination. After some final prep to its peacock-hued space, Zaika — from the owners of the now-closed Chutney’s in Queen Anne — will debut on Pike Street soon with a parade of creative Indian-American fusion dishes and drinks, including apricot chicken seekh kebabs, sesame cheese-stuffed eggplant, and eggnog lassis. The restaurant will preview its dinner service tomorrow, roll out thali lunches by Monday, and plans to officially open with a full menu — including happy hour specials — by next Friday.
Zaika takes over the location formerly occupied by Tango, the popular tapas mainstay which closed earlier this year. Knowing that this neighborhood gets lively after hours, co-owner and chef Nitin Panchal aims to have a robust drinks list, with twists on classics (such as a chai old fashioned with cardamom) and small bar bites (such as tuna papdi chaat with tamarind and mint gel).
But the chef is also developing a deep dinner menu with seasonal ingredients that mix Pacific Northwest flavors with classic Indian dishes. Patrons can expect pumpkin soup with coconut cream to pop up on the list of initial offerings, along with goat cheese potli, fish moili (baked seabass), and dahl jeera cauliflower with cashew, yogurt, and cumin. “I didn’t want it to be too fine-dining, like butler-service style,” says Panchal. “But at the same time, I want customers to have an upscale experience.”
As far as the atmosphere goes, Panchal and his team gave the Tango space a significant makeover, which includes a purple and aquamarine color scheme, along with striking artwork along the walls — refreshingly colorful in a city that sees a lot of plain white or metal slate in new restaurant designs. The dining room and bar area are separate, but roomy enough to allow for walk-ins. There’s also a private room that can be reserved for events. And with the aforementioned thalis planned, Zaika hopes to take advantage of the Capitol Hill brunch crowd as soon as possible.
Dinner, happy hour, and brunch seem like a lot to tackle all at once in the first few week or two of operations, especially with the holidays coming up. But Panchal seems undaunted, saying he’s “excited” for the challenge. Zaika’s versatility may, indeed, prove to be a selling point. Many Indian restaurants near the Washington State Convention Center or further Downtown tend to lean into bargain buffets or business lunch demands.
Meanwhile, Annapurna Cafe on East Broadway offers a variety of Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan cuisine, but is known best for its dumplings, and the mobile operation Spice Waala brought its wildly popular kahti rolls to Capitol Hill earlier this year, yet is still mainly a fast-casual spot with a limited menu. Zaika hopes to stand out from the pack, one thali at a time.