Review: Standard Sweets and Snacks (Long)
Surati Farsan Mart (SFM) occupies a landmark position on the culinary map of LA. It is perhaps, IMHO, the only entity which does justice to street food from India in Western United States (I smell controversy). In fact, on my last visit to Bombay I realized SFM was better than some of the "above-average" places in Bombay ("Footnote1").
On the other hand, Standard Sweets and Snacks (SSS) is a new joint in the stretch of Pioneer Blvd, known as "Little India". It was supposed to open a while ago, but finally did about two weeks ago. Folks at the counter mentioned it is an offshoot of Jay Bharat (further along on Pioneer Blvd, the earlier owner sold it off to JB). They also mentioned, the motivation to open SSS was to offer more variety than Jay Bharat (though strictly of the vegetarian kind) ("Footnote2"). I realized later they have a "Since 1985" below their logo, but did not ask about it. The menu, basically has four components - street food, Indian-Chinese, Punjabi and Gujarati. I was curious about the street food, as there are other restaurants which are terrific at serving at least two of the other three cuisines ("Footnote3"). Secondly, SFM on weekends is a nightmare due to the crowds, hence, having a neat alternative right next door would be excellent ("Footnote4")
I went with my usual "SFM order": Pani Puri, Papri Chaat, Dahi Puri, Ragda Petish and an unusual dish called Mogho Pinni.
Pani Puri: (Cold Soup in Wheat Puffs): At SFM, you get the Wheat Puffs (Puri), Cold Soup (Pani) and lentils and potatoes (L&P) . The idea being put as much L&P in a Puff, dunk it in the soup and achieve salvation. At SSS, there is an extra ingredient - hot gravy of yellow peas (this option is quite popular in Bombay, though I personally don't enjoy it). The verdict: Rebirth, no salvation. The Pani must be definitive - tangy, hot and sour, which is the case at SFM, but not at SSS. At SFM, when you have the Pani by itself, the flavors explode in your mouth and the world to you is now made of two kinds of people: the Pani Puri Haves and the Pani Puri HaveNots. Not the case with SSS - it was insipid, and in a world without SFM, some could even call it good. The upside was the Puris were fresher than SFM and definitely made of wheat and their inconsistency in shape and size implied lack of mechanization (or a really bad machine).
Papri Chaat: Decent rendition, had all the usual ingredients, but nothing spectacular.
Dahi Puri: The ingredients are largely similar to Pani Puri except instead of Pani you have Dahi (yogurt) and you also have "Sev" and cilantro. It was good, but did not distinguish itself.
Common to all three above items, is a green mint chutney, which is terrific (and consistent) at SFM. It has an evidently strong minty flavor which makes these three dishes as "out-of-the-world" as possible.
Ragda Petish: SFM is vastly superior - their "ragda" is spicier and the petish (a potato cutlet) is larger and less oily. The curried yellow peas makes the "ragda" - it is kind of bland, and they add a lot of green and tamarind chutneys, but the overall effect is nothing great (one would expect a whole is greater than the parts effect - doesn't happen).
Mogho Pinni: I found this was a Gujarati specialty - Mogho is yam and Mogho Pinni is boiled yam in a tomato based spiced sauce. This was quite sour, but delicious in its own way (I haven't had this anywhere else, nor do I know if anyone serves this).
Will I drive to Artesia to go to Standard Sweets and Snacks for street food? No. If I drive it will always be for Surati Farsan Mart. Secondly, where does SSS fit in the grand order of things? Will if its too busy or crowded at SFM, I will definitely hop over to SSS. It ain't bad, it just ain't that good. In summary, Standard Sweets and Snacks seems like a Bollywood flick - a little bit of everything, some action, some comedy and the usual song-and-dance routine. The action sucked, and I am not sure if I want to see the comedy ("Footnote5).
That being said, I will now continue with my SGV exploration.
Standards Sweets and Snacks
18600 Pioneer Blvd.
Artesia, CA 90701
Footnote1: Bombay may have made street food popular, but the stuff in New/Old Delhi is beyond comparison in terms of price points, quality and taste.
Footnote2: A comparison of the online menus, suggests they are not very different - just a little more Punjabi stuff.
Footnote3: Indian-Chinese: J&J Indian Chinese is the only one I know and is sub par - it is in the same location as Masala Bistro, and after two visits, I would suggest its not recommended.
Footnote4: The question begets: why would the street food be any different from what is served at Jay Bharat? Two reasons, firstly, I haven't tried Jay Bharat's street food - I go there only for the Gujarati Thali, and secondly, who knows, even if it is the same owner, unless you try, you never know.
Footnote5: They offer more "Punjabi" options, but the point is, why not specialize even further, instead of generalizing even more? Regional cuisines from India go under-appreciated because they are hard to find. They are unique and as interesting (if not more) than what is served rather generically as "Indian food" (aka Punjabi/North India). It could be that the "Gujurati" thali is stellar (just like Jay Bharat - which by itself was not in the league of the now-closed Yogiraj Restaurant).
Standard Sweets has been around for years, but they had a massive fire 2-3 years ago (if not longer) and never reopened. Glad to hear they are now open again. That used to be the place all us indian kids in high school used to meet up at on the weekends while our parents shopped for indian groceries! that was like 15-20 years ago!
I'm not big into sweets - so my sample space is very limited. I think SFM's jalebi is good - not the gold standard because haven't tried it anywhere else. I do like Nanak's rasmalai (frozen) and can be bought in Indian grocery stores. You raise a good point though - someone needs to open a store which sells only sweets (to start with just the Bengali kinds). That would be a huge hit!