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Feb 7, 2007 08:47 AM

Terrible Indian -- Westside -- Sad

This is just a sad rant after yet another disappointing Indian meal on the Westside.

I've now eaten at just about every Westside Indian restaurant. Every. Single. One. You name it, I've eaten at it.

As an Indian (born in Delhi) to be precise, but raised in the US, I've gotten accustomed to Americanized Indian food. Sometimes corners are cut. But the level they are cut here in Los Angeles is truly astounding. Examples:

- Samosa fillings that are bland, devoid of any spices. Just potato mush.
- Dals that are clearly the hodgepodge reheated combinations of yesterday's leftovers.
- Tandoori chicken that is dry, unflavored, or just a poor cut.

And FORGET about getting the following:
- Dahi papdi (Crispy wafers with yogurt, tamarind, spices, etc.)
- Pani puri (Crispy and puffed things that are dunked in spicy liquid.)
- Bhatture Cholle (Fried bread served with slow-cooked chick peas.)

I miss San Francisco (eating at divey Vik's in Berkeley or the Tenderloin's Shalimar or the Mission's Pakwan.) I even miss the chain restaurants (Chaat Cafe). Looking at the menu and pictures on this page makes me cry:

I'm thinking a quick Southwest hop up to the Bay Area next weekend and a lot of Tums on the way down.

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  1. Offer your thoughts on how Clay Pit and Nawab would fit into your rankings for westside Indian places. Also, provide names of those deemed acceptable in your mind.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carter

      I go to Ambala Cafe on Westwood every two or three months.

      I also go to New India Grill on Westwood every two or three months.

      1. re: carter

        IMHO: I would not rank Clay Pit in any restaurant category it is so bad.

      2. Have you been to Annapurna?
        10200 Venice Blvd. Culver City (310) 204-5500

        1 Reply
        1. re: tony michaels

          Yeah -- Annapurna is pretty good. I mention it below. It is on a monthly rotation. I've had some really salty dosas there though. Being North Indian, I like Annapurna, but I do not crave it. I crave the basics from my childhood (good samosas, bhatture chole and above all, chaat).

        2. You forgot to mention where you had your most recent "disappointing Indian meal" which as I have posted before is the case with most Indian/Pakistani restaurants in the area covered by the L.A. CH board! There is not one Pakistani that can compare with the S.F. Bay Area Pakistani's! My current favorite is Lahore Karahi!
          I have posted lists here in the past of places that are good or at least ok but they are overshadowed by the mediocrity of most Indo/Pak in this area, so sad.

          5 Replies
          1. re: sel

            Last night's disappointment was Akbar's. Again -- the service and ambiance were fantastic. If you want to take a non Indian friend out for a nice Indian meal -- this is the place to go.

            Unfortunately, the food just didn't meet my basic expectations of Indian cooking: to be flavorful. My mother had a spice cupboard containing no less than 50 spices. Each dish she prepared had its own unique blend and balance of spices and flavors.

            This is where I had the bland samosas. The outside was perfect -- in composition and the deep fry level. The inside was a clump of boiled potatoes with a bit of salt. Missing were all the spices necessary for a good samosa filling: cumin (very surprised by this), aamchur (dried mango powder) and even good ole chaat masala (a boxed spice mix for lazy cooks.)

            Again -- I doubt this matters here in Los Angeles -- as most of the clientele is not Indian.

            1. re: jhulla

              Well it matters to this non-Indian whose best friend was born in India and has enjoyed his mums home cooking. I plan trips to S.F., especially the Tenderloin, for the great food. I wish that I could find it here as well! I have not been to Akbar's, I usually prefer more casual and reasonably priced Indian and Pakistani restaurants.

              1. re: sel

                Apologies for the slight -- in fact the friend who introduced me to Shalimar in San Francisco when I first moved out there is the whitest white boy you could imagine. He told me that he just had to take me to his favorite lunch place -- Shalimar -- he ate there at least two times a week. I rolled my eyes and said yes. I was shocked to discover the greasy Pakistani truck stop style food. I loved it.

                I do not remember the numbers -- but when I compared the size of the Indian population in LA county versus the Bay Area -- it was substantially smaller here. Therefore, IMHO, there are far fewer Indians to keep the restaurants "honest" as it were.

                1. re: jhulla

                  Shalimar may be authentic but I was underwhelmed the one time I visited, though this was several years ago.

            2. re: sel

              I just looked up Lahore Karahi -- man -- I am so going to eat there on my next trip to the Bay Area. Thanks!

            3. Clay Pit was pretty good -- the ambiance and service was excellent. I would go back in a few months. I had two issues 1) the dishes were underspiced (as in missing flavors). This seems to be a common flaw down here in Los Angeles. I suspect it is because the majority of the clientele is not Indian -- the owners and chefs have chosen to simplify the dishes in an attempt to make them more broadly appealing. For example, I've never had sulphurous black salt ( ) on anything here in Los Angeles. 2) For a random dinner out, at about $45, the dinner for two was expensive. I couldn't possibly go back there once or twice a week on my budget.

              Nawab -- I like the location and the people. And to be honest -- I've only been for brunch -- albeit once every month or so. Unfortunately, this is where I've had the hodgepodge leftover dal combination experience. The brunch has gone down in quality in the past few years. I go because it is close and optimistically believe that I deserve to have a good Indian brunch nearby. Been disappointed. I have not eaten here for dinner.

              My metric for good Indian is simple -- a restaurant I want to and can afford to visit at least twice a week. Even ignoring cost for a moment -- there isn't a single place I want to visit more than once a month.

              One that is on the monthly rotation is Annapurna -- on Venice - cross street is Jasmine. In a strip mall. Serves pretty darn good Dosas. Cheap.

              BTW -- here is an example of an innovating and interesting Indian place that I wish were in Los Angeles. I have it on list to visit next time I go to DC.


              From the review of Rasika in the Washington DC area. "If managed carefully by a chef who takes the time necessary to approach the spices, a good curry will leave you with hints of saffron, star anise, coriander, pepper, fenugreek.."

              3 Replies
              1. re: jhulla

                I ate dinner on Friday night at Nawab and, although I don't know much about Indian food, I will say that it was infinitely better in terms of seasoning than the all-around bland food that we ate at Akbar several weeks before. That was the second time I'd eaten horribly bland food at Akbar and I don't think I'll be back.

                1. re: jhulla

                  This is absurd - I can't think of a single Indian dish that would combine saffron, star anise, coriander, pepper and fenugreek. Star anise anyway is a fairly rare ingredient in the cuisine of most states of India.

                  1. re: jhulla

                    Clay Pit is one of my favorites, though it is somewhat more expensive than others in the area. As for spices, try the Vindaloo. I ordered it spicy once, and they weren't kidding around! I'm just a white boy, but I can deal with spicy, and it was hot!

                    Their buffet lunch is a good deal -- $15 with a tea.

                  2. Have you tried Bombay Cafe, Jaipur, All India Cafe, or Akbar, all of which are located on the Westside?

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Jack Flash

                      Have tried, but been disappointed by Bombay Cafe, All India Cafe and Akbar.

                      Have not tried Jaipur. Will try it.

                      I was impressed by Samosa House. I think the name has changed recently. More of a restaurant in a grocery store. The food was unusual. Have not been back after my first visit -- so I can't say more.

                      1. re: jhulla

                        As an FYI, Bombay Cafe is now owned by Nawab of India, so beware!

                        1. re: jhulla

                          Samosa House used to be Bharats Bazzar, they are doing such wonderful things now that they are focusing on food... Absolutely the FRESHEST Samosas on the west side with GREAT Mango Lassis...


                          1. re: Dommy

                            I dissagree...the mango lassi at Samosa House is not that's quite obvious by the NEON color of it that the grama who pours it made used some sort of mango puree instead of throwing some fresh mango inside...don't get me wrong I love SAMOSA HOUSE and the samosas are fresh and not overly greasy...but when it comes to lassi...they've gotta revisit that recipe...

                            i am not indian, but i am north/east african and honey is indian and together we have a very discerning palate from years of HOMECOOKING. we are both vegetarians (although i am stricter than he)...of our experience with indian restaurants we have been overall fed up with the food we are served at some places...i mean if we say we want it SPICY that means leave the FLIPPIN seeds in the chilies foo! franchised indian food restaurants make me frown!

                            INDIA'S TANDOORI
                            INDIA'S CLAY OVEN
                            INDIA'S SWEETS & SPICES (on venice)

                            another one ive been disappointed with...SHERSHAH....ive been to ANNAPURNA as well and its good but i dont necessarily crave south indian food.

                            it's like OLIVE GARDEN is to ITALIAN thank you for the leftovers from last night at a reduced price/all you can eat!

                            We've been to CHANDNI in Santa Monica and they've managed to do a good job more often than not.

                            The moral of the story is that we all have different taste buds...mine are similar to my boyfriends because north and east african food is in a similar "palate"...but if your not accustomed to a certain way of cooking and would not be dissappointed due to eating out and tasting food that does not taste as it "should"...all ethnic foods are usually made to please a broad audience...that sometimes can make or break business...EAT AT HOME it always tastes better...hehe

                          2. re: jhulla

                            yes the food is unusual for me...but i think they have a portion of the menu that is jain friendly and then selections that are vege friendly. the mom/owner is from rajastan and her husband was trained in a culinary school somewhere in north india (i think i read this somewhere), i say all that to say that i think they take a lot of risks with the food instead of being regionally specific.

                            1. re: jhulla

                              There is to me a substantial difference between the Akbar in Santa Monica and the Akbar in Marina del Rey - I like the latter. I've had good daal there and even mixed vegetables that were very nice. Granted, my main dish is usually the gringo Chicken Tikka Masala... they have a nice fish recipe also. If you ever find yourself at Jiraffe in Santa Monica, by the way, I'd encourage trying the samosas there. I'm sure they're nowhere near authentic but they are some of the best I've had. I also like Annapurna quite a bit (though have had better at Akbar on a good day for Akbar). One of the very best curries I had in L.A. was in a little take-out almost adjacent to Annapurna - a goat curry with all sorts of nuances and different spices at different "octaves." But I believe it's now a nail salon!!

                            2. re: Jack Flash

                              I second Jaipur. They have a particularly nice buffet, especially on weekends.