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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

    Akbar

    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.

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              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 - http://blog.taragana.com/n/glasgow-ch...

                      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.

                    2. My Indian next door neighbor (from Goa) nearly flipped when I said I was going to Akbar. "NO! NO! no. Go to Agra" So, because I am no expert, I humbly submit Agra Indian Kitchen on Lincoln.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: jdwdeville

                        Akbar is on the low end of mediocre, at best.

                        Haven't tried Agra Indian Kitchen, but am looking forward to checking it out now :)

                        1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                          I think that's a bit harsh on Akbar, especially for what is on offer in the area. They have a few dishes that score for me.

                          Have not tried Agra, either. Looking forward to it.

                          1. re: Frommtron

                            Maybe - I firmly believe that just about every restaurant has one or two things they do well. I just haven't encountered it there the few times I've been - I felt like everything was really bland or overcooked or both.

                            To be fair, I might also be allowing myself to be influenced by the horrible food and service I received at the Pasadena Akbar location long ago.

                            1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                              de gustibus non est disputandum...

                              As a picky Indian, I have eaten at the Pasadena Akbar a few times, and never had a problem with the service and food. It is small and so we always go with the expectation that it will be full and perhaps require a long wait or an alternate place (in old town Pasadena, that is usually not a problem). However, we have been lucky and never had to wait long.

                              They have a number of unusual dishes, or standard dishes prepared and presented in slightly unusual ways: crab cakes, balchoa scallops (actually like the balichow pickled dishes from Goa), mint kababs (Hawaiian wahoo and chicken) - the list is long. Food often is a bit more spicy than comfortable for non-Indian palates, and we have had to ask them to temper the heat.

                              Now on the other hand, there are fans of Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena, and I can't stand the place. Terrible food experience during lunch - the most bland Indian food I have had in a long time. I am also not enamored of Azeem's Afghani, but am willing to try them in a pinch.

                              1. re: suvro

                                as a picky indian, what's your favorite indian place on westside?

                                1. re: echoparkdirt

                                  Unfortunately, since I live in Pasadena, I rarely go westside for Indian food. I have been to Neela Paniz's restaurant Bombay Cafe a few times in the 90s, but did not find it particularly noteworthy except for the lamb frankie's - which originally comes from the Chowpatty beach snack stands in Bombay. Then the chef left and opened All India Cafe in old town Pasadena. I have been there a couple of times soon after it opened, but did not find it that exciting either.

                                  We loved when Maurya first opened in Beverly Hills (see my 2005 review of the first visit - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/66942), but it did not last long. Some of the best Indian food was being served and their first year Mother's Day Special was outstanding! But it soon closed down and now has been taken over by Chakra. The space is the same, but Chakra is overpriced for what it offers. Close by is Tanzore in the old Gaylord space, but it was not that exciting either. So the bottom line is North America is not the place for cut edge Indian food, sadly.

                                  Royal Khyber in Santa Ana had impressed us for two specially catered parties in the restaurant. But recently (2010) when I took a colleague for a dinner there (driving all the way from Pasadena), I was less enthused - their lamb shank had a off-putting funky flavor - as if it was stale meat! Since my dining companion did not find it so, I did not make a fuss. But it was one strike against RK.

                                  The place that has consistently drawn us back is Ambala Dhaba in Little India - the sit down place, not the original place which now serves really terrible food. Their Santa Monica location is less attractive - parking problems, and not sure if the food is the same quality. Next to the Ambala Dhaba in Little India is a vegetarian restaurant that I am going to try next week - Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se - (From the Streets of Bombay) - and from pleasurepalate's review - http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/20... - it should be a good one.

                                  Sorry I don't have recos for westside.

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                                  All India Cafe
                                  39 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

                                  Tanzore
                                  50 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                                  Ambala Dhaba
                                  1781 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

                                  Ambala Dhaba
                                  17631 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701

                                  Chakra
                                  151 S Doheny Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                                  Tanzore
                                  50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                                  Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se
                                  17705 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701

                      2. Im a big fan of Agra Indian Kitchen on Lincoln and Washington

                        1. Thanks Everyone for your kind referrals.

                          1. Nawab (wilshire, around 16th) - good for mughali dishes.
                            Bombay Cafe (Pico just East of Bundy) - has some unusual dishes (frankie) you wont get elsewhere. try the multani fish. the lamb vindaloo is nice and spicy. i also like their lime soda.
                            Agra (lincoln north of washington) - unusual dishes and flavors. try the dhansak.
                            Mayura's (venice and motor) - the only kerala restaurant around. try the fish curry with appam. they have vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

                            1. Bombay Cafe - it's decent; good. not the best Indian in the world but ok. Being half-indian, i'm picky - not like my mom's food.

                              Samosa House on washington is ok....

                              Nawab is decent too.

                              1. Gate of India on SMonica Bl between Ocean and 2nd. Rezallah Curry with coconut milk is to do die for. They also have a curried chili dish that is a challenger, amazingly delicious for the not so faint of heart. Very saucy, sexy sauces. I LOVE this place.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Senzinina

                                  i'd skip gate of india. i recently went 3wks ago and ordered up an assortment of food including palak paneer, tofu tikka masala and eggplant bharta and everything was SWEET.

                                  yep, candy sweet. i think the chef f'ed up and substituted sugar for salt.

                                2. India's Oven on Wilshire is hands down the best Indian food on the Westside, right now.

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                                  India's Oven
                                  11645 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025