Merzi is a great spot for Indian-fusion cuisine near the Verizon Center in the heart of downtown DC, which does mean there is no parking lot specifically for Merzi, so you have to park in a public pay lot or find it on the street. From the sign outside you can immediately see that this is a contemporary restaurant, not your standard Indian kabab-style restaurant. Inside, the décor is warm colors, flame styled cut outs lining the walls, warm natural wood paneling with matching seating.
The best way to describe Merzi is that it is like an Indian version of a Chipotle. This is because when ordering at Merzi, you approach the ordering line and start by selecting an entree “base” of naan bread, rice, salad or chaat masala, then one of the next compliments: black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, or onion-pepper mix. After those are laid on your plate, you move down the line and choose your meat and whichever fresh vegetables, warm sauces and chutneys to have thrown on top of it all. At the end of the line is the cash register where you can choose a veggie samosa or potato tikka while ordering your beverage too. Seating is open cafeteria style with several high stations for patrons who choose to stand.
This style of ordering feels very personal, custom to your request and you get to watch as it is put together, your way. Meat options include zabiha chicken, and lamb, and shrimp – but the beef is not confirmed as zabiha. All the various options along the ordering line are fresh and well maintained so that sauces are kept smooth, veggies and meats are moist. It is obvious that Merzi has fresh and healthy meals as the goal in mind.
TML enjoyed a breast of “Tandisserie”™ chicken on chaat masala with a warm medium spicy sauce, yogurt chutney and a veggie samosa. Tandisserie”™ is Merzi’s trademarked Tandoori-seasoned chicken cooked rotisserie-style which makes the meat tender and flavorful all at once. Add the bursting fresh flavors of the stewed garbanzo beans with raw onions, peppers, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes and probiotic yogurt to make this dish was a taste bud tickler! The veggie samosa met usual expectations filled with peas and potatoes, and fried to a crispy perfection. Not to be mistaken with anything standard is what Merzi calls Mango-Fantango which is a drink made from mangos, natural hormone-free milk, and lightly sweetened with vpure cane sugar, as tasty as any mango lassi and yet a bit more nutrition conscious.
TML also enjoyed the naan version of th eTandisserie™ chicken as a substitute after we ordered shrimp but waited to find they were out that particular evening, and added potato tikka on the side. The naan made fresh in-house, was soft, warm and fluffy, and you have the option to get additional naan at the cashier. These potato tikka patties were stuffed with crumbled and delicately seasoned “paneer” Indian cheese browned to a tender crisp. Since the warm sauces and flavorful chutney are unlimited when assembling your meal, it is a good idea to keep in mind that you want extra left to use for your naan! Serving sizes for both dishes were just right, to be satisfied and only have a little left over if any at all.
Dinner for two included two entrees, two sides and two smoothies with tax included the total was only $25 and change without servers there is no expectation for additional expense in tipping. However, the staff at Merzi is still very friendly and welcoming. Merzi is a great meal, at a great price, with the added benefit of fresh, healthy choices in a contemporary setting. Be sure to stop by Merzi if you are in the area, you won’t be disappointed.
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11:00am - 10:00pm | Sunday: 11:00am - 9:00pm