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Samosa House vs. Bawarchi

  • Moomin Nov 22, 2009 06:53 PM
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Two longtime regular Samosa House customers.

Two combinations from Samosa House, two from Bawarchi, and one Papri Chaat from each.

Let it be noted, neither of the diners were really Samosa House partisans. We each made regular pilgrimages to Artesia before having kids (still young toddlers). Samosa House is simply the most convenient and consistent option that has been available in our price range on the west side of town.

Here are the deciding factors that have influenced our decision.

Distance: Samosa house 4 miles, Bawarchi 4.5 miles. Essentially a draw, but Samosa House has easier parking.

Environment: really a non-issue as we usually have take-out. But Bawarchi is a clear winner when judged on design, comfort, and general cleanliness (even their dine-in serving-ware seems up market). It has to be noted that Samosa House somehow feels "right" dispite the low-rent nature of the environment, whereas Bawarchi seems almost unjustifiably posh given their reasonable prices. Advantage... probably Bawarchi.

Price: Pennies different. Draw.

Chaat: This was the greatest contrast between the two establishments. Samosa House used to (about two years ago) source their ingredients much better preparing their papri chaat with kala chana (black chick peas) and thin sev as well as their home made chutneys and yogurt. Today the recipe has been simplified, and the more esoteric ingredients have been dropped, but it's still quite tasty. Bawachi, sadly, takes the Samosa House recipe and simplifies it further, resulting in a less balanced, less satisfying option. Would we prefer Surati Farsan Mart or Jay Bharat? Are you kidding? But, between the two local options Samosa House is the clear winner.

Combo Plates: Very tough decision here. In many ways this is an impossible call to make. Options change daily in both establishments, and the items that are always avaiable like jack fruit and chana were all but identical. No. Really. Blind tasting identical. No joke. Same recipe. Really. As to variable options we had Mirchi Saalam from both places... Samosa house was spicier and sweeter, Bawarchi was smokier, and thinner. We had Soy Tikka Masala from both, Bawarchi was oilier and hotter, Samosa House was denser and sweeter. We had Malai Kofta, which was a stark contrast, totally different recipe: Samosa House was a corn cake in sweet cream sauce, and Bawarchi was a soy meatball in sour cream sauce. On the whole, if you like sweet and rich sauces Samosa House is your destination, and if you like sharp and thin sauces Bawarchi is preferable. Even though Barwachi has roughly twice the number of options available we generally preferred Samosa House.

Bells and whistles: Bawarchi has Pilau rice at no extra charge... but it isn't very good. Bawarchi has naan... but it's overworked, dried out, and simply awful (Samosa House will apparently also have naan by the end of the week). Bawarchi has salad. Samosa House has vastly better raita... and both now have equally bad papadum. Both have dried out chapati.

Conclusion: Is it worth picking favorites? I'd probably pick the closer based on geographic location and leave it at that. Generally, I honestly preferred Samosa House, and didn't see enough distinction between the two to make much fuss about. If I were going on a cheap date I'd probably go with Bawarchi as it's prettier... but beyond that there's not much to distinguish it... As soon as the kids get old enough we'll probably go back to making the crosstown pilgrimage anyway.

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  1. I had this roasted chili curry at Barwatchi and it was fantastic. Really thought everything was good and fresh. I think they are working some of the kinks out, but it is a good choice for lunch in Culver City. There are a lot of different veggie options.

    My main complaint was that you get a lot of food w/ the combo and the trays are too big for the table. Some things, like the salad, seem like more of an afterthought.

    1. I'm giving Bawarchi a try today. I was craving a nice samosa chaat, but it sounds like that may be a mistake.

      2 Replies
      1. re: a_and_w

        Thanks for the detailed report, Moomin. I've been enjoying Samosa House for a long time now, and I was sad when it seemed the chef had left (though I'm happy to see he has his own thing going now at Bawarchi). I feel like I'm going to have to go out for Indian food on the west side twice as often. I'd love to see both places doing well.

        1. re: banjoboy

          Try them both, then decide. I was thinking along the same lines, but honestly... after my recent meals at both establishments I'm inclined to simply stick with Samosa House. They're both fine. Bawarchi is just not appreciably better in any significant way.

      2. Thanks for the very interesting comparative review. Haven't made it to Bawarchi yet but there has been some recent debate about Samosa House (and Bawarchi), among others, here:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663964

        3 Replies
        1. re: cakewhole

          Took the plunge this weekend and tried it. On the plus side:

          * Great bang for your buck, way more food than Samosa House
          * More variety of options.
          * Slight advantage on taste. I think it's fairly neck and neck but I'd give the edge to Barwarchi.

          Negatives:
          * very slooow service. Took a long time to order
          * feels nitpicky but having trays the size of the table seems a little strange. Between food drinks and an appetizer, we had to expand onto the next table to fit it all.
          * May have been a function of the food and naan but I left feeling fuller (in a bad way). One of the things I always liked about Samosa House but that I could eat a full dinner and not feel stuffed after. That didn't happen this time.

          Overall I'd say alternate between the two or pick the one closer to you. Both are good options and fairly similiar.

          1. re: Discokill

            I've only eaten at Samosa House once, and at Bawarchi 2-3 times. I agree that Bawarchi does give you more food for your buck than Samosa House, and I appreciate the better variety. 1 "special" at Bawarchi can feed me and my wife... particularly with a side of aloo pakora.

            I must sadly agree about the slow service though at Bawarchi. I wouldn't want to have 4-5 people ahead of me, or it'd take quite a while. The people are nice, just not very fast (perhaps because they haven't been open long).

            Oh, and in response to the OP, I'd say the naan is quite fine - reminds me of Trader Joe's frozen naan (so, if you like one, you'll like the other. If not...).

            1. re: hhewitt

              Going to have to plead a "take-out" exemption on the size comparisons. The take out containers are idenical and filled to precisely the same degree. Now... I will confess... take out at Samosa House is a bit of a trick, as they give you roughly twice as much food as dine in, for precisely the same price.

              Even when I'm dining-in, I order take-out at Samosa House. Shhhh... don't tell.

        2. I will say the thing I like best about Bawarchi is they have Labels for each of the Dishes. Most of the time Samosa house did not.

          1. Tried Bawarchi yesterday and was really, really impressed! Palak paneer, malai kofta, and chana masala were all extremely fresh and well spiced. This is right up there with my favorite veggie Indian places anywhere. The kicker is that Bawarchi is also only a block or two from the Anjelica truck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: a_and_w

              It's nitpicky and unfair... but it plays on my mind.

              Both Bawarchi and Samosa House are steam-table indian places. Neither of them serve "extremely fresh" food. Nor should they, they serve casseroles, many of which actually IMPROVE and intensify with time. There are certain items that each restaurant stocks that I won't order if I see that they've just been brought out because the flavors benefit from more time on the burner.

              Having said that, to each his or her own. Upon further reflection I stand by my initial observation... they're remarkably similar, neither as good as they've been touted to be, and the major distinction is Samosa House errs on the side of rich and sweet (coconut cream), and Bawarchi errs on the side of sharp and thin (mustard oil).

              1. re: Moomin

                Perhaps "extemely" was hyperbole, but your correction is otherwise inaccurate. "Fresh" is simply a relative term as applied to steam table food. As for Bawarchi, it's a LOT better than recent critics led me to believe. I'm confident this place would do very well in Manhattan (but probably not Queens) where competition for veggie Indian is greater than LA. (Though I would kill for a branch of Saravanaas.)

                1. re: Moomin

                  since the dal at both places is cooked for 24 hours; for that dish, at least, it doesn't seem to me that another 40 minutes on the steam table would make any discernable difference one way or another.

              2. I dont quite agree with a lot of comments here. I've tried both, and found a drastic difference in quality. I sat at the 2 places instead of togo. I was pleasants surprised by the quality and taste of Bawarchi. Beats any punjabi food I've had in LA, all the curries were amazing... simply beats samosa house..... if you can appreciate the subtle differences in the quality of the taste....

                26 Replies
                1. re: A.S

                  Fair enough. Between my years in Paradip, Brick Lane, and Bellflower (Artesia adjacent), clearly the problem is my inability to discern subtle differences in the quality of the taste.

                  I actually talked to Gunmeed the other day and about Bawarchi's overuse of mustard oil... I agree that it IS authentic, but I don't like it. And not to be too Woody Allen about this, but Bawarchi's portions are much smaller (and shrinking) when compared to Samosa House.

                  1. re: Moomin

                    not only is the use of mustard oil authentic,
                    i much prefer it.
                    there are plenty of non-authentic indian joints serving dumbed down food on the west side. . . .
                    i am grateful for the improved offering.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I only take issue with your use of the word "improved."

                      All of which brings me back to my initial point. There are VERY small differences between the two restaurants.

                      If I wanted a bit more variety I'd go to Bawarchi, if I wanted a bit more food I'd go to Samosa House... If I wanted remotely authentic Eastern Indian food I'd go to Artesia.

                      Indicentally, Quarrygirl has a great head to head comparison (based primarily on meal size) on her blog. Definitely worth a look.

                      1. re: Moomin

                        "If I wanted remotely authentic Eastern Indian food I'd go to Artesia."

                        Can you elaborate on what you mean by "remotely authentic Eastern Indian" food?

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Sure. For Bengali there's Little Dhaka, for Hyderabadi there's Shan, Kabob Corner, and Tirupathi Bhimas... I generally go to Surati Farsan Mart or Jay Bharat for chaat, but they're Western Indian.

                    2. re: Moomin

                      No offense, Moomin, but you aren't the only one who knows quality Indian. I'm confident offerings in Artesia are no better or more authentic than what's available in NJ and Queens where I chowed for years. Just accept it -- some people prefer Bawarchi.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        I totally and completely accept that some people prefer Bawarchi. I do so without reservation or judgement. The only point I've taken issue with is the insistance that those who prefer Bawarchi do so because it's miles tastier, more authentic, or higher quality than Samosa House.

                        Bawarchi is fine. Samosa House is fine. They're pretty mich equally fine. Neither is great. Neither is terrible. There are very small distinctions between the two.

                        Any attempt to blow the distinction up to more than personal preferences is pretty lame.

                        1. re: Moomin

                          moomin,
                          YOU are the person who originally characterized the use of more mustard oil as being more authentic.
                          and, for me, since i adore the taste of mustard oil, mustard seed, and mustard greens, i would always prefer to go to a place that uses those ingredients.

                          of the non-artesia places, i really like the curried/sauteed fresh mustard greens that the chef at bombay grocery makes just for me.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Yes, you're right, I did.

                            My point was that sticking with that, mildly controversial, touch of authenticity (most Indian chefs dial down the mustard oil, even in India, when preparing vegan food), in a pretty inauthentic context seems odd.

                            Other odd touches the restaurants have in common... both use olive oil, both use allums in what would otherwise be ayurvedic preparations, neither restaurant uses ghee as a sauce base.

                            Incidentally, mustard seed oil is still not marketed as safe for human consumption. Most Indian households use it, but it's designated for external use only both here AND in India.

                            1. re: Moomin

                              guess i'm lucky that i'm still alive, since i love the stuff.

                              my understanding about the use of olive oil at samosa house was that it was in response to customer demand.
                              many of the customers that seek out vegetarian food do so in order to avoid saturated fat;
                              these customers requested that samosa house offer foods that were low in saturated fat.
                              also, a few of the customers are vegan.
                              by substituting olive oil for butter (ghee), samosa house was able to cater to the preferences of these two subgroups of their customers.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Yup. Same situation at Bawarchi (more or less). Samosa House is down to one dairy option each day, Bawarchi is down to either two or three. They're both responding to customer demand that they offer less traditional recipes.

                                As far as toxicity in mustard seed oil, there were poisonings in India which were blamed on erucic acid. It was actually probably due to poor processing. Suffice it to say, you can't buy it for culinary use anymore. Whether you should be able to is another matter. It's just unusual to taste large quantities of it in recipes that aren't prepared at home.

                          2. re: Moomin

                            Gotcha -- in fairness, you did say exactly that in your review. Can you recommend a good samosa chaat?

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              For Samosa Chaat... if you're willing to make the drive, or just find yourself in Artesia, Rasraj is good, and Bombay Sweets and Snacks is okay.

                              Jay Bharat and Surati Farsan Mart are better in general, but neither have Samosa Chaat on the fixed menu (both feature it occassionally as a special).

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                It turns out Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se, in Artesia, also has samosa chaat.

                                I stopped in today, while visiting family, and noticed it on the menu. I'm not crazy about the restaurant... it's Mumbai street food prepared to order, which is lovely, but it has a very home cooked slightly amateur feel to it, which can be quirky.

                                That said, it's yet another option that is both better and more authentic than anything we've got here on the west side.

                                1. re: Moomin

                                  although not strickly food-related, i have to say that i found the the owner of mumbai k galliyon se to be extremely helpful and lovely. i went there with a group of 10 folks, and he worked with the organizer (abby) to put together a really terrific meal for us and kept up a running dialogue explaining each dish as he brought it out--a terrific enhancement to the meal

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Totally agree. Shruti Shah, the chef and owners wife, is one of the loveliest people I've ever met.

                                    That said, other than the piyush and the dabeli, which were both truly fantastic, everything else I've had there can be had in a better incarnation elsewhere.

                          3. re: Moomin

                            There is a lot of interesting insight and squabbling over the question at hand. You guys are pretty tetchy about whether or not you agree. I don't see how where you have lived would make you more refined in taste. Excuse me, but what dishes benefit from sitting under the heatlamps and steam trays?

                            I have read the whole thread and decided that this a good place to discuss portions because I wanted to since the first post in the thread. Maybe they don't like you at Bawarchi, but the portions are absolutely greater comparing them both as takeout. Furthermore, whichever rice you pick, it's not a dollar extra, though at Samosa House I would have picked white rice anyway. You can get chapatis at Samosa House, but you have to explicitly ask for them. You also get more raita at Bawarchi, a salad and papad or pappadum--which you don't get at Samosa House (they used to have papad at Samosa House.

                            Since you are a local, you can get a free samosa with the pennysaver coupon from Bawarchi. Or on Mondays you can get 15% off, or Tuesday and Wednesday 10% off from Bawarchi with the online coupons; which makes it a lot cheaper than Samosa House. Since the Bawarchi samosa order comes with two, the pennysaver coupon is a good deal because it saves you $3--and gets you a lot more food. You get significantly more food at Bawarchi versus Samosa House.

                            You can disagree about authenticity, quality, etceteras. The answer to portions is pretty clear. Unless maybe Gunmeed hates you or something, you should have the same experience. Maybe you did something that upset him like criticize his use of mustard oil. I don't know. I get free sweets and extra curries from both places, so it's not that either place treats me preferentially. Oh yeah, Bawarchi also has lemons and limes and spiced onions . . .

                            -----
                            Samosa House
                            11510 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA

                            1. re: apple7blue

                              recently had sublime curried bittermelon from samosa house,
                              and the wonderful curried bhindi with potatos from bawarchi.

                              i am so lucky to live near both of them. .

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                You like karela? You have a broad palette. From my experience, even very few Indians like karela. I love bhindi, when you say curried you mean in the yellow soupy like stuff or just a fried sabji?

                                1. re: apple7blue

                                  dunno the nomenclature,
                                  both were 'dry' stir-fried/sauteed dishes.
                                  fantastic.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    You should try bhindi with Gujarati curry http://chatpatidish.blogspot.com/2009...

                                    That is one of my favorites. Bhindi is good any way. I like them here, there, anywhere, I like them in a box, I like them with a fox . . .

                                    Karela is just too bitter for me.

                                    1. re: apple7blue

                                      I did not want to bother to print out a coupon for Bawarchi so I went to Samosa House, the other day. I know that does not really make sense, because even then I could have gone to Bawarchi . . .

                                      I got a combo plate and shrikand. I asked for chapatis--not their new tawa roti or naan, so I had to wait a bit for that. This was fine by me, because it was freshly cooked and I felt like eating that versus their other options. I got their jackfruit--which is well reviewed here. I also got eggplant. One thing that I had a problem with is they don't cut the stems off of the eggplants--like that would be so much work? I also got veggie tikka masala--which was just a soup of tikka masala with precut frozen vegetables. That was just disgusting. Like the taste was bad. I think the raita I got was off also. Anyway, I ended up not eating the rice, tikka masala, and raita. The shrikand was weird also. It was kind of harder in texture than it should be, it was sweet and I felt like something sweet to cleanse my palate--it was just so thick in consistency. I have no idea what they did to get that.

                                      It's Indian fast food in a buffett--not in the worse sense of this description like that disgusting place in the Santa Monica mall. It's not really gourmet food, street food, or even home cooking either, "authenticity" or not. My conclusion was to go to Bawarchi next time. These places are really close to me, and because they are buffet, I don't have to wait for it to be prepared. I think if I was less lazy, I'd probably eat better . . .

                                      -----
                                      Samosa House
                                      11510 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA

                                      1. re: apple7blue

                                        Ha, what place are you talking about in the Santa Monica Mall?

                                        1. re: mdpilam

                                          I don't know what it was called, it was in the food court. There is a place like that across from USC also, directly across. An Indian buffett in the worst sense . . .

                                          1. re: apple7blue

                                            I guess I was more drawing a blank on the Santa Monica Mall part... I can't think of any mall in SaMo except for the new Santa Monica Place opening this week. You don't mean the Promenade, right? The only Indian I can think of is Gate of India there, but I've never been. Oh well.

                                            -----
                                            Gate of India
                                            117 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                            1. re: mdpilam

                                              It's not actually totally new--the old Frank Gerhry mall had a food court Indian stand . . .

                        2. I like both places, but Bawarchi's menu is more interesting. Bawarchi is the only restaurant I know of in the United States that serves sarson ka saag with makki ki roti -- a Punjabi staple.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AlkieGourmand

                            One more for when you are in NYC http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701175

                            1. re: AlkieGourmand

                              Well... Samosa House has sarson ka saag with makki ki roti a few times each month, and Ambala Dhaba had it on the menu last time I was there, as did Bombay Sweets and Spices in Artesia. Pickles on South Street has it as well (a Manchurian tinged version), and I'm pretty sure there are others...

                            2. They're still very similar.

                              Samosa House is just too sweet for me.

                              Bawarchi's naan still sucks. He'll try and sell you on a chapati but it's really no better.

                              Other than that, Bawarchi's a clear winner for me. Just don't expect much out of the naan and don't get the veggie rice.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BrewNChow

                                to add to BrewNChew's remarks:
                                the saag at bawarchi contains mustard greens as well as spinach which, to me, gives it a far better flavor.

                                fwiw, i don't think the rice in either place is worth the calories.