Not everyone is shying away from big food and drink opportunities on Capitol Hill.
Zaika, a new Indian restaurant taking over the Tango space at the base of Pike just above downtown, is setting out to be, well, new Indian — a new take on the familiar food and drink that blends in with its colorful neighborhood and the bustling nightlife of Pike/Pine.
“There’s something new out there,” owner Nitin Panchal tells CHS. “Most of the people, they might not ever have tried something like this.”
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With the exit of much loved Poppy from Broadway earlier this year, Zaika is ready to step in and offer forward looking takes on Indian cuisine with a menu that has room for both Malai Chicken and Chicken Tikka Tacos. Beyond the menu, Zaika’s opening took longer than expected as Panchal said he tossed out the initial designs for overhauling the space and spent extra weeks on refining his launch menu. It’s an ambition not far removed from the efforts that drove the creation of Mamnoon as a showcase of Middle Eastern flavors just up the block from Zaika on Melrose.
CHS talked with Panchal this summer about his plans for Zaika and hopes to bring “a Capitol Hill happy hour take on Indian food” to the former Tango space. Tango Restaurant and Lounge closed after 19 years of date nights and tapas at the corner of Pike and Boren to make way for the new venture.
When Tango was born, its area wasn’t quite the draw Zaika inherits. Today, it shares the block with the massive Starbucks Reserve Roastery and the Melrose Market, both huge magnets for neighborhood visitors, shoppers, and diners. Not everything has changed. Though its building sold, Club Z still does its thing across the street.
Panchal, who ran the Chutneys on Queen Anne for a decade — though not its Capitol Hill cousin that closed in 2013 — and also operates Subway franchise locations in the area — didn’t want to add another traditional Indian restaurant to Seattle. For one, it would be a waste of Capitol Hill. “This is where we can do something different,” he said, saying his hope is for his Indian clientele to seek out Zaika as an alternative to more traditional restaurants and for neighborhood diners to embrace the new project as a great place for meals and drinks mixing seasonal Pacific Northwest tastes and ingredients with Indian flavors and spices. Eater Seattle attended a tasting and has more here on Zaika’s offerings including pumpkin soup with coconut cream, goat cheese potli, fish moili, and dahl jeera cauliflower.
There is also lunch. Eschewing the business lunch buffet scene, Zaika instead offers an elegant — and filling — $15 thali that is an excellent showcase of the simple twists it is hoping to bring to the Pike and Melrose dining scene.
Zaika is now open at 1100 Pike. You can learn more at zaikaseattle.com.