(Continuing my quest--with a little help from my friends--to visit every new restaurant in DC...)
For me, the Holy Grail of new restaurants is a hole-in-the-wall that opens in an obscure corner of D.C. with no fanfare but amazing, affordable food. Granted, the hype that accompanies most restaurant openings these days makes this dream less likely, but a few places still slip under the radar; no "soft opening," just Open For Business.
Chicken & Rice opened quietly a few weeks ago in an unfashionable strip mall on H Street NE. I tried a few dishes recently and thought they were just OK. The spinach dish (Saag Chicken) and chickpea dish (Chole Aloo) both tasted mostly like salt (or maybe MSG?) with none of the subtlety of the best Indian food. They will make dishes spicy on request, but again, the heat isn't subtle, it's just cayenne or chili powder with no balance to the rest of the flavors.
As for ambiance, there isn't any. Chicken & Rice has tables and chairs, but it was a thousand degrees inside, and I opted to eat on a streetside bench instead of dining in. That's no slam on Chicken & Rice -- D.C. needs carryout and delivery spots as much as beautiful dining rooms. If the food is good enough, I'm happy to eat it under the stars. But C & R isn't in that category (yet), and I probably won't make an effort to come back here anytime soon. I will keep their delivery menu though, and will update this post if I find any notable dishes.
In the meantime, the search for the Grail continues...