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Jan 22, 2009 01:13 PM

Best Indian Food in or near Santa Monica

Looking for great Indian Food in or nearby Santa Monica area.

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  1. There Nawab of India on Wilshire with good buffet.

    Pradeep's on Montana


    1. I absolutely adore Bombay Cafe on Pico just east of Bundy--amazing Goan Shrimp Curry, cauliflower, eggplant deva...and really great lunch specials that have huge portions of really wonderful items that they have at dinner. And at dinner they start with a really garlicky and delightful chutney that knocks my socks off every time. I buy it by the pint to put on everything else. The staff is very friendly and has not changed much in the 5+ years I've been going there. Plus they have a full liquor license, so try the ginger margarita--great light and tart match to the Indian spice! The only possible drawback is that it is quite loud. But really really always consistent and yummy!

      Also--very very informal and family-style cafeteria-like Samosa House on Washington east of Centinela in Culver City is always exceptional for vegetarian lunch. Jackfruit is my favorite, but everything is great. It is VERY casual and the limited seating is in the front of the shop, which sells lots of Indian and British foods.

      4 Replies
      1. re: BunnieBear

        i concur with your recommendation of samosa house, but respectfully disagree with your recommendation of Bombay Cafe.

        i went to Bombay Cafe with 3 people. Between us, we ordered 4 entrees. The only one that any of us thought was memorable was the eggplant. I can't even remember the other 3. Mind you, they weren't bad, they just weren't very good either--nothing with nothing.

        Maybe you need to know what to order there before actually walking in the door. . . .

        1. re: westsidegal

          I concur with your comments. Bombay cafe was a disappointment. Bland and overpriced. You should try the indian place on the west side of Lincoln Blvd near washington. Best Chicken Tikka Massala I've had.

          1. re: BurritoLover

            You're referring to Agra Indian Kitchen. I used to like this place, and it was my #2 on the westside (I know, not saying alot), but the last two times I've eaten from there, I've just been underwhelmed. And, I think they raised their prices, and they also tore all their coupons off their flyers. I try to go to Little India for Indian when I can.

      2. I second the Bombay Cafe. Everything the other poster said is right on.

        1. Here's a small round-up of stuff in the general vicinity:

          Bombay Cafe is fine, but not great in my opinion. They aim to serve slightly more refined food and they offer a nice ambiance. Overall the experience is good. Unfortunately, I think the flavor of the food is a bit flat. Still, not bad. B-

          I've been to Nawab a couple of times. I applaud their heavy hand with the ghee and I've had some nice dishes there but I don't crave it. B

          Akbar has a couple of nice dishes, including the coco lamb that is worth trying. B+

          Samosa House is excellent if you are going there to buy spices and supplies. But I found the food to be downright gross. It makes India's Sweets and Spices seem gourmet. There was nothing even remotely redeeming about it other than the *concept* of the jackfruit dish. But even that was a huge disappointment. I'm always shocked by the love it gets. Others clearly disagree though and while you're there stocking up on tamarind concentrate and jaggery you might as well sample a few items. F-

          Surya is still intriguing, despite the well-reported drop in quality since they were featured in the LA Times awhile back. Even though they've appeased their new, wider audience by toning down the unfamiliar spices, there are still notes in the cooking that I don't get at other places in the general area. A-/B+

          Ambala Dhaba has goat. And really, that's kind of enough for me. They also have a great dish called Ludhiana Chicken. I've had them on some off nights but overall they do a nice job. B+/A-

          Annapurna's Cuisine is an excellent niche spot. They are vegetarian, and specifically, they are dhosa experts. I like them a lot. A-/B+

          Pradeep's is sort of a Cal-Indian joint. I like the space and the food is pretty good, if you forgive the fact that they do a "healthy" take of Indian. It's diet Indian food, and that's better than you think but not as good as you might want. I'd suggest the methi dishes. B (assuming you want what they are selling)

          NOTE: All grades are relative to the area you're asking about, not to Indian food in the LA area as a whole. There aren't any blow-your-mind places for Indian on the Westside for me so no unqualified A scores.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Frommtron

            Frommtron can you give a couple blow-your-mind places for Indian? Here in LA or around Hollywood?

            1. re: Schweinhaxen

              I can! Makkah on 4th and Vermont. It's just about the only Indian restaurant in L.A. proper that I love - everything else is bland in comparison.

              Makkah Halal Tandoori
              401 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90020

              1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                I'd have to agree. This and the two India's Sweets and Spices are the only two Indian restaurants north of the 105 that I would recommend.

              2. re: Schweinhaxen

                No. I think Little India is really the place to go for the truly special stuff. They have regional dishes that you don't find in every Indian restaurant.

                The problem I find with nearly every Indian restaurant I stumble across is that they offer the same ol' same ol'. It's the same problem with many Thai and Chinese take-out places, too. It's not just that the spicing is dumbed down to save money and to appeal to a broader palate, it's that the SAME dishes are on EVERY menu. But that's also why places like Thai Town, Little India, Little Saigon, and the San Gabriel Valley are outstanding -- a commitment to regional cuisine.

                I find that Annapurna's, Surya, and Ambala Dhaba at least have a few special offerings. They fall short of the Little India restaurants because they don't offer the full full spice range they ought to and they can have some real misses on the menu. I'd hesitate to call it bland, but rather not as complex and intriguing enough to get truly excited about.

                Now, if you're going to head to Little India then I'd start by following Das Ubergeek's excellent recommendations in other threads. Look for his REVIEW posts. I'll also try to dig up an old post that I printed out a couple of years back and link it. That's got excellent information that I tend to use as my guide.

              3. re: Frommtron

                I know Surya has its fans here, but I found it to be very bland and small servings. Also, the room gets very loud.

                1. re: Frommtron

                  Wow...gotta disagree re your appraisal of Akbar vs. Nawab. I'd give Akbar a low C and Nawab a B+.

                2. Nawab is the best I've found, particularly for saag paneer. I love the chicken tikka masala at All India Cafe, but avoid the saag paneer. I've been underwhelmed by these same two dishes at Ambala Dhaba and Akbar.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: a_and_w

                    That's true! Nawab's saag paneer is the best I've had in the area. Hands down. Not even close.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      You are judging an Indian restaurant by its CTM?
                      See this article for some hilarity on CTM -

                      I remember seeing a show in India where the host (a gourmand) visited with a famous British Indian chef from UK. She cooked CTM on the UK embassy grounds in New Delhi and it was the most disgusting concoction from canned stuff.

                      I think most Indians would not consider CTM as the definitive item to judge Indian restaurants by. Indian kids growing up here like the smoothness of the gravy, and that is why sometimes Indians will order it.

                      1. re: suvro

                        Did I say that? Regardless, it's on the menu of every restaurant serving Northern Indian food and provides a useful baseline for judgment.