What is the best Indian restaurant in LA?
- carln Aug 26, 2006 06:08 PM
I moved to LA from London (where there is a lot of very good Indian food) and have tried a few indian restaurants but found them all to be tamed down for the American palette. Which Indian restaurant do you hounds consider the best?
Can you elaborate on the kind of Indian food you enjoyed in London? There is a large cluster of Northern and Southern Indian restaurants on Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia. Annapurna in Culver City has very good Southern Indian vegetarian food but you will have to put up with Bollywood movies on plasma displays scattered on the walls.
re: Joe Blowe
I honestly dont know. I have eaten at India's Tandoori on Pico, India's Oven on Wilshire and Akbar of India on Washington. The only one that i found to be decent was India's Tandoori and its only good when you tell them that its ok to prepare the dishes authentically and not to americanize them. I have also tried a place on Pico called Bombay Cafe (i think) and although i had heard good things about it, i was not terribly impressed.
I like Jaipur (note: I am a vegetarian so I cannot comment on their meat dishes), but I am not sure how authentic the food is. It's on the south side of Pico, just west of Westwood.
The favorite food of my wife and I is Indian, though we are not from the subcontinent. On our London trips since 1977 we have tried to eat only Indian (a wide variety). To calibrate us, our favorites in London are Bombay Brasserie and Sarkhel's, while we thought Chutney Mary's was pretentious and not really very good. Those are high-end restaurants but we enjoy most well-made and deeply-flavored Indian. We like it layered with spices, not merely hot (and as you know, not everything is hot, hot, hot, but much should be.)
That said, here are some favorites (we do have a geographic bias, as my name implies; I don't know the Artesia area):
- Nawab in Santa Monica. Certainly among the best lunch buffets; reliable at dinner.
- Addi's Tandoor in Redondo Beach. Worth the drive. Everything we have had has been excellent, plus it is about the only place in this town where Vindaloo is made right, without the common, deplorable addition of tomato products.
- Annapurna in Culver City. Fully vegetarian Southern Indian. Like Ravi says--simple and informal, but well made.
An unusual place that you may like is Gate of India in Santa Monica. It is small and chef-owned; the chef cooks in a somewhat-personalized Bengali style. It is quite tasty and layered in spicing but VERY rich in cream and ghee, too much so for my wife. Service can be quite slow but is worth the wait. Don't go for the buffet.
Stay far away from Tantra. And Bombay Cafe is training-wheels Indian, IMHO.
There is clearly no best Indian restaurant in LA. There is too much variety in Indian cuisine and these are some of my favorites:
428 S San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles
Essentially Indian Punjabi - The chicken tikkas and seekh kababs are excellent, one of the best I have had in Indian restaurants. The curries are good but I have had better - noteworthy are chana masala and kaali daal. The fried okra (bhindi) masala is also quite good. The bread is generally good, and the portions are good sized (unlike most Indian restaurants). They serve beer and wine, but I am not sure about other alcohols.
Tibet Nepal House:
36 E Holly St, Pasadena
Under-mentioned and under-rated. This place deserves some serious space on this board. It is technically neither Indian nor Pakistani and shouldn't be on this list but I have included it as Nepal is in the Indian sub-continent. Nepali food is most interesting - it is herbier and not as inclined towards spice as Indian food (though last time round, I ordered the Lamb Sekuwa ("Lamb Tikka" and it was spicy as hell - and please note, I am one of those "spiceheads" when I want to be). This is one of the few places, which I consider extremely date-friendly (amongst Indian place) :) The Tibetan is average, I have had way better in New York and Boston.
Vermont & Franklin, Los Angeles
This is India's Grill owner's second restaurant in Los Angeles. The chicken/meat dishes are pathetic but the vegetarian Punjabi stuff - chana masala, kaali daal is really good. The reason this is on my list (of course, it is in Los Feliz) is because it has a really good bar (Tantra and Electric Karma supposedly also have good bars) which is a rarity in Indian restaurants.
Makkah Halal Restaurant:
Vermont & 3rd, Los Angeles
I wrote a review on this a long time ago. One of my favorite places in the city.
Gate of India:
7300 W Sunset Blvd # D, Los Angeles
Again an Indian Punjabi-owned restaurant. The kababs are pretty good. This is always a second choice restaurant for me, and my bias is due to my inherent tendency to either order or go to Makkah Halal. The curries are quite nice. The vegetarian stuff is decent. Spice level can be modified to suit your requirements. Offers staple Indian *pathetic* beers (though I have suddenly started liking Himalayan Blue for some godforsaken reason). There is a Gate of India in Santa Monica as well. I was told it was good, but I found it extremely disappointing - *pathetic more than disappointing* on my visit.
14611 1/2 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks
Excellent kababs and biryani - I would say one of the best biryani places that I have visited. I haven't explored the curries as much as I should have (though I did try one of their curries, which was pretty good), and that's because I go there when I want to have strictly kababs and biryani. I think they have a full bar but I am not sure. Another point to note is that the service is usually excellent and the decor is not that bad (though it tends to be typically Indian - with Indian movie songs playing on big LCD's).
18621 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia
I think this is Pakistani-owned. The curries are OK but the kabas, nihari and paaya are fantastic to say the least. I always visit this when I am hungry for nihari and paaya! I am not sure if they serve alcohol.
Noorani Halal Restaurant
14178 Brookhurst St, Garden Grove
This is again on my list of best places for kababs and biryani (which is awesome!)- they make the lahori chargha, which surprisingly is much more delicious in my humble opinion than the usual tandoori chicken. Also, the first place where the chicken tikka tastes different from the tandoori chicken (in most Indian places, you would find that chicken tikka is essentially boneless tandoori chicken). The curries are typically Pakistani - delicious but OILY. The rotis are excellent. No alcohol is served though.
India Sweet House (aka Paratha Place
)5992 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
Excellent parathas and that's it. Cash only and quasi-fast food. I don't bother trying out South-Indian dishes when the owner is distinctly North-Indian.
Sunset & Normandie, Los Angeles
Claims to be the oldest Indian restaurant in LA, and possibly could be. It is pure vegetarian and serves beer and wine. To be precise, I find the taste more Tamil than anything else (Andhra, which is also another style of South Indian cuisine is more suited to my taste as it is fiery). Paru's serves some good ol' dosas, idlis, uttapams - all the usual stuff. I like their rasam soup in particular and their salted lassi (a yogurt drink with corriander, chillies and other interesting stuff).
18792 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia
TB is Andhra - and they serve "Thali" which is similar to a lunch special (has like 2-3 vegetables, 2-3 sambars/rasam, rice, etc.). Since, its Andhra its spicy and yummy!. Though there can't be any benchmarks (my only ones are home-cooked Andhra meals, to which TB should obviously not be compared to) for comparison as LA does not have any other in this specialty.
17631 Pioneer Boulevard, Artesia
This is one of those places which has all the marks of greatness, yet falls short due to tremendous inconsistency. In three visits, the sambar has gone from Great to OK to Bad. When I say, great, it is as good as anything you could get in South India (and not the Udupi restaurants of Bombay). Interesting choices in the dosas and the uttapams. If it is your lucky day, no one can beat this place. There is also one in Culver City though I haven't visited it.
19662 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana
This is Sri Lankan and I haven't found too many Lankan places in LA. Sri Lankan food and South Indian food are close in culinary terms and yet distinct from each other. Anyways, the food is hot as hell and delicious. I remember having a roti with eggs and some really fiery lamb curry (the lamb wasn't quite good and I should have ordered chicken). The dried fish pickle was awesome!
This is essentially Gujurati cuisine as it is served in Los Angeles as I haven't come across anything Maharashtrian.
Surti Farsan Mart
11814 186th St, Artesia
Cheap, consistent and crowded. They serve "chaat", the origins of which are North Indian but is quite popular all over India. Modernist, whose extensive culinary knowledge is of great value to foodies like me, had written an excellent description of Paani-Puri on this board (can't seem to find that link though). This is an excellent place that one shouldn't miss.
3107 W Lincoln Ave, Anaheim
IMHO, this is *THE* place for home-style Gujurati food (they do have competitors in Artesia). Nothing beats Yogiraj - its oily, buttery and delicious. Try the Village Thali (#3), they have a buffet only on weekends. Rasjraj and JayBharat are average clones of Yogiraj in Artesia on Pioneer Blvd. - though JayBharat's Pav Bhaji is better than Yogiraj's (Pav Bhaji is more Bombay food than Gujurati cuisine).
While by no means is this list exhaustive (as I haven't tried a number of places in the westside) it should be considered as a list of places which are either serving food close to what I have had in India and are reasonably consistent.
Places I AVOID:
1. India Sweets and Spices: Cheap and that's it.
2. Akbar: Most over-rated Indian restaurant. It’s terrific if you like calling a mediocre place - terrific.
3. Anarkali/Others in the vicinity: On Melrose, there are three restaurants in close proximity, I have been to all three, and Anarkali is the only one I remember by name. You can guess how good the other two are.
4. Udupi in Artesia: So avoidable, it continues to surprise me that its still open and doing business.
5. Electric Lotus: Yes. It makes it on this list as well. For everything other than chana masala and kaali daal and Duvel.
6. Agra: On Sunset, east of Vermont average for tandoori but not a single curry is memorable (though it offers Balti, the Birmingham-born cuisine in Los Angeles). The vegetarian is a disaster to say the least. My cat cooks better mutter paneer.
7. Masala Bowl in Artesia: Thrice on three consecutive weekends - Good, Bad and Ugly. It has something to do with the owners - they also own Annapurna.
8. Woodlands in Artesia: Clueless about the cuisine they are trying to promote. They had a buffet which served Punjabi, South-Indian and Indo-Chinese. Bad. Bad. Bad.
Thanks for your lengthy list and descriptions, particularly of where to go in the Little India area. Our experience of Electric Lotus was an unmitigated disaster; even if their chana masala was God's gift to humanity I would never go back. I'm not sure that the two Gate of India restaurants are related any more, though they may have been to begin with. The Santa Monica chef is emphatically Bengali.
Have you tried the Nepalese food at Katmandu Kitchen on Venice Blvd. (north side of the street, west of Overland, east of Sepulveda) in Palms? It is small, chef-owned, and you will have to look hard for street parking. Their momos are dim-sum-like dumplings that are out of this world. The other dishes we had were good but, as you say, less spicy than Indian. Service was excellent and prices are very reasonable.
re: Lee by the Sea
I have heard but haven't tried Kathmandu Kitchen. The momos at TNH were pretty good but need to try KK in order to see how TNH compares. Gate of India, I believe has different owners because when I went to the one in Santa Monica, it did seem Bengali, so perhaps my previous post may seem ambiguous. My last (and only) experience of GOI in Santa Monica was so bad, I wouldn't go there until its the last restaurant standing.
Thanks very much for the indepth anaylsis of the Indian food available in L.A. Your reporting reminds me of Howler's commentary on Indian food in London (you might enjoy doing a search under Howler on the U.K./Ireland board).
Update - 25 minutes have past since I typed the above and during that time I decided I'd follow my own advise and search Howler's postings. Sadly, only 8 came up and the good ones prior to the new software didn't show. Lost in Cyberspace? So I tried searching using "Indian" and ONLY 35 posts came up none of which were older than 5/04/06.
Need to update this:
1. Yogiraj is closed for reasons unknown to me. It's really sad at it was the closest to home-style Gujurati food in the Southland. Next best is JayBharat on Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, it is good, but lacks the punch of Yogiraj (read oil and spice) which made Yogiraj so good.
2. Since my previous post, I visited the Gate of India (Sunset Blvd location) thrice - the tandoori (grilled) dishes were pretty good but the curries left a lot to be desired. Too much tomato, and like all mediocre Indian restaurants, they all tasted the same.
Some more updates:
Annapurna in Artesia apparently has gone a makeover and moved to a different location within the same strip mall, I haven't visited it yet, but I do hope it is as good as it can (or used to) be.
For Indo-Chinese (this is not fusion but simply Chinese food cooked with the Indian palette in mind):
Royal Cuisine of India
11454 South St
Cerritos, CA 90703
Serves "Frankies" which are found in Bombay (not sure about other parts of India), and are essentially burrito-like in form and substance, except they don't have rice and beans but instead have a hot curry-ish dish (with or without meat) on the inside. They also serve Indo-Chinese which is respectable by LA standards. They definitely have a weekend buffet, but the a la carte dinner is much better and enjoyable (not sure if they serve a la carte for lunch).