I think most twenty-somethings (or really, people with good taste in general) have a special love for Chipotle. The Mexican chain is brilliant when you’re super hungry and need food fast, and aren’t up for a greasefest of hamburgers and fries. But how many burrito bowls can one girl eat before she’s ready for something new? (More than you think, probably, but just go with it.)
Lucky for us, Merzi on 7th street is much like Chipotle, except with an Indian twist. Same fast-food concept, same create-your-own feel, but with fun new flavors like tikka masala and chutneys. Also, bonus, it’s locally run and owned, and you guys know how I feel about supporting small businesses. So read on, my lovelies, for a first look at the new Penn Quarter eat place.
Merzi, which means “choice” in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi, is certainly that. Orders at Merzi are built from either a Naan Roll, filled with a choice of meat and vegetables; a Rice Bowl with long-grain Basmati rice; Salad withfresh lettuce, or Chaat, an aromatic blend of onions, peppers, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and chickpeas, topped with a lightly sweetened yogurt sauce and tangy tamarind date chutney. You can either choose to go vegetarian or add proteins such as their signature Tandisserie™ Chicken, braised shredded slow-cooked beef, marinated grilled lamb, or grilled shrimp.
After you’ve built a base, add on warm sauces, like a hot tomato masala, a blend of fiery chilies and traditional Indian spices combined with herbs; medium tikka masala, or a mild makani, the sauce that typically accompanies butter chicken. Cold chutneys include a hot chutney, red chilies crushed and combined with fresh herbs and tomatoes; medium chutney, green chilies chopped and mixed with fresh herbs, mint and seasonings and a mild chutney, a sweet and tangy chutney made of pulped tamarind and dates, infused with select seasonings. My favorite was the medium chutney, which still has a kick. My mouth WAS on fire afterward, but there are good bottled sodas and a fresh mango/yogurt smoothie to wash it down with.