50 Best Restaurants: Agni spices up Sterling with its Indian cuisine

Expect fiery, but also well-balanced spices throughout every dish at this Sterling location.

A lunchtime thali is an all-you-can-eat feast-for-one at the South Indian Agni. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano

Sterling | Indian | $$

Two Informational Technology professionals working in a stable sector (if there is one) decided to change paths and open a restaurant, an industry notorious for its fail rate.

This post originally appeared in our November 2019 issue’s 50 Best Restaurants cover story. For more food reviews, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Their path included everything from leasing, and then abandoning, one space to traveling through India to meet with chefs and source ingredients (the owners are even writing a book about their restaurant adventures).

Photo by Rey Lopez

Agni is better for whatever it took them to open a stylish, minimalist space in a sprawling Sterling strip mall. The South Indian food is fiery, but not just to turn on heat seekers. It’s a balance of freshness, with a rainbow of seasoning. There’s a gratis mug of soup, bright, salty and tomato-y, a little punch of what’s next.

Photo by Rey Lopez

Dishes lean spicy and dramatic: A pepper cauliflower is fried, with bracing heat; mutton pepper is intoxicatingly spicy goat; and the vegetarian thali is an all-you-can-eat lunch option with rotating curries, where every bite is a new way to make the mouth find joy in the pleasure of pain. // Agni South Indian Cuisine: 46005 Regal Plaza Suite 140, Sterling, VA 20165

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