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Agra Indian Kitchen review (long)

l
Lee by the Sea Jul 28, 2007 10:55 AM

It's been two weeks since a door hanger inauspiciously announced the arrival of a new Indian restaurant. But since wife and I have been hooked on Indian food for thirty-some years, there we were the next evening.

Agra Indian Kitchen is on the west side of Lincoln Blvd between Venice and Washington Blvd, a few doors down from a Hertz Local Edition and a used car place. You won't see its sign if you are in your car. It's a small room, with six booths and two tables, not fancy but clean. But this is a find, folks.

We ordered our usual check-this-restaurant-out choices of Chicken Saag and Lamb Vindaloo plus a vegetable dish, this time Malai Kofta (spelled Kupta on the menu), and being hungry added Vegetable Samosas. Papadums, rice, and salad are included with each item. The Samosas had a nice crispy crust and a plain potato filling with a few peas; they worked well with the accompanying tamarind and mint chutneys. No flaws, but nothing exceptional.

But, oh, the main courses!! I knew we were in for something special when the Lamb Vindaloo arrived without a trace of tomato in it. That's how this Goanese dish is supposed to be, fiery hot, vinegary, and impossibly complex in spicing, but not red. The only restaurant in Southern California at which I'd had it that way was Addi's Tandoor in the South Bay, because Addi is from Goa. Agra's Lamb Vindaloo was superb, one of those dishes where each bite tastes a little different and the spices bloom in your mouth.

Chicken Saag is chunks of chicken in a spinach-based sauce. In other restaurants the spinach may be sandpaper-coarse, or pureed like the contents of a Gerber's jar, or buttery smooth because it is half butter. The Agra version was smooth without having been pureed and was surprisingly light, almost as if made without butter. The chicken was all good-quality breast meat. Gentle spicing underlaid the spinach. This was among the best versions we have had of this dish.

The Malai Kofta was also a standout. A decadently-rich cream sauce with moderately-sharp spicing enveloped round fritters (the Koftas) that were packed with a variety of vegetables. Agra's fritters could have been a bit more moist, but the cream sauce was so good that we didn't want to leave a milligram of it in the pan. We were spooning it over the amply-provided rice long after the Koftas were memories.

Our beverages were Mango Lassi and Spiced Hot Tea (often called Masala Chai). Both were well-made, fresh, and pleasant. Somehow we found room for a good shared dessert of Mango Kulfi, the Indian ice cream. (There's always room for ice cream.)

This feast would normally have set us back about $44 with tip, but the door hanger gave us 20 percent off.

Intervening travel kept us away till ten days later. This time we ordered Lamb Pasanda, Chicken Madras, and a Mixed Vegetable Curry. The Lamb Pasanda had complex and deep spicing and was thoroughly satisfying. Chicken Madras was hot, with somewhat less spice complexity but pleasant tomatoeyness. The Mixed Vegetable Curry was simple, probably the only dish from the two meals which I would not order again.

All in all, this little place is serving up a remarkable level of Indian food. If you should visit, one word of caution: Park on the west side of Lincoln or its side streets. Don't even think about wading across the unending high-speed sea of traffic on Lincoln.

Agra Indian Kitchen
2553 Lincoln Blvd.
Venice-LA-Marina del Rey 90291
310-827-0050
Dinner 7 days, 5 pm - 10:30 pm
Call re lunch hours (no buffet)

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  1. DanaB Jul 28, 2007 01:22 PM

    I wonder if this is affiliated with the Agra in Silver Lake. When that place opened, I thought it was very good, but to my taste, the quality has declined the longer it has been open.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DanaB
      rednyellow Jul 28, 2007 07:45 PM

      Agra in Silverlake has sadly gone down hill since the original chef, Mohamed, left. I ran into him quite a while back and he had a falling out with his partners and was no longer a part of the business, which is a shame because he is such a nice guy and a great cook too.

      1. re: rednyellow
        m
        motherlove Aug 4, 2007 01:07 AM

        Agra Indian Kitchen, Venice is not Affiliated with Agra Cafe Silverlake at all.I asked owner of Agra Indian Kitchen about it.His name Ali,nice & very friendly.By the way It has 3 to 5 spaces of parking in the rear.

      2. re: DanaB
        l
        Lee by the Sea Jul 28, 2007 08:22 PM

        To my knowledge there is no relationship. The chef is originally from London, cooked here for awhile, then did something else. He decided he liked cooking better and restarted at the Agra I reviewed. He is even making the Kulfi (Indian ice cream) himself.

      3. hrhboo Jul 28, 2007 02:31 PM

        I was just about to ask if anyone had tried it! I've been disappointed with the lack of good Indian food in this area so I'm glad to see your review. They deliver too, so I'll be trying them out soon.

        5 Replies
        1. re: hrhboo
          g
          glutton Jul 29, 2007 01:08 PM

          Have you ever tried Annapurna on Venice Blvd (near Motor) in Culver City? It's a good, reliable, tasty place to grab a dosa.

          1. re: glutton
            hrhboo Jul 29, 2007 01:15 PM

            I haven't, thanks for the rec! I've often driven past it but when I'm in the area I usually end up at Samosa House. I'll give it a try.

            1. re: hrhboo
              g
              glutton Jul 29, 2007 07:08 PM

              I'm normally adverse to lunch buffets, but I've gone a couple times to their Saturday lunch buffet and have been impressed with the variety and freshness of the food. However, I usually stick with their dosas.

              1. re: hrhboo
                l
                Lee by the Sea Jul 31, 2007 05:27 PM

                Annapurna is South Indian, which is quite a different cuisine from that which Agra Indian Kitchen offers. It is the second Annapurna restaurant; the original is in the Little India area of north Orange County. There are reviews of Annapurna elsewhere on this board.

                I've only been to a half-dozen South Indian restaurants in Southern California and a few more in London, so I know the cuisine less well, but I had a good experience at Annapurna. It's totally vegetarian; the food can be quite bland or very hot, sometimes at the same time (bland idly and spicy sambal come to mind).

              2. re: glutton
                westsidegal Aug 13, 2007 07:56 AM

                also, Samosa House offers really terrific southern indian food (vegetarian), albeit self-serve and the food is served on styrofoam.
                be sure to try their mango/banana/pistachio soup.
                their jackfruit is excellent as is their okra.
                their kidney beans are supurb.
                their spicing is not 'hot' spicy, but very DEEPLY NUANCED savory spicy.

            2. Moose Jul 28, 2007 02:42 PM

              Lee,

              Thanks for the wonderful and detailed review - I've all but given up hope for good Indian on the Westside, and will likely give it a spin Sunday evening.

              Moose

              1. mollyomormon Jul 28, 2007 07:07 PM

                Yay! I concur with the other posters here about being really happy to read a great review of a westside Indian restaurant! thanks for posting about it.

                1. n
                  NYCnowLA Jul 28, 2007 07:16 PM

                  i did a little take out from there this past week and i thought it was great too!

                  1. b
                    bromion Jul 30, 2007 11:29 PM

                    I second the recommendation. I tried it last week and was impressed, especially so given their reasonable prices. I tried two "standby" dishes -- Chicken Tikka Masala and Rogan Josh. Both were up to snuff. The Tikka Masala was a little bit heavy, but still quite good. I was also impressed with the naan. Give it a try!

                    1. m
                      mdpilam Aug 12, 2007 07:12 PM

                      I went there tonight, and was very satisfied. Will definitely be back.

                      1. l
                        laonion Aug 14, 2007 10:11 PM

                        Thanks for the rec! My husband and I tried it for lunch on the way to Costco and were very happy with the food. I haven't had such good, flavorful saag in months! We'll definitely be back.

                        1. w
                          wiliamw Oct 8, 2007 08:15 AM

                          I and three collegues had dinner at Agra while staying in the Marina Del Rey area on business in September. One member of our group is from same region in India, Uttar Pradesh, that Agra is located in. We were all quite impressed with the food, the value, and the service (although there was a little bit of a language barrier at first, until our Indian collegue decided to step in and clarify a couple of things). I agree with the review... worthwhile place to visit and return to. I’d like to add that they have a variation of the vindaloo called “volcano” which has no potatoes and more fiery spice… not the hottest Indian food I’ve had, but definitely wakes up the senses, and the seasoning was superb. I had this dish with Paratha, a side of mango achar, and raita; all excellently prepared. Although not listed on the menu, you can order a salty lassi; I don’t think they make their own yoghurt for the lassis. On the topic of parking, there are a couple of spaces behind the restaurant, and you can enter through the back door (gives you a chance to walk past the kitchen).

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