Akbar in Santa Monica
This restaurant has been reviewed many times, here, so I won't go into much.
We went to the Santa Monica location even though the Marina Del Rey location is closer because they prepare the food with more heat in Santa Monica.
I particularly love the chutney they serve that is made up of lima beans and corn and carrots. Lots of heat and lots of flavor, too. We ordered onion bhajee appetizer and I heaped on the chutney. Delicious. They were fried, but not greasy. ate one plain and it had a nice carmelized onion thing going on.
For dinner we split two ala carte entrees. We had the chilean sea bass curry (their chilean sea bass grilled is excellent, but we were in a curry mood) and the bhindi masala, which is okra. We also had dal of the day and rice.
I have a difficult time describing flavors some times, particularly when the spices are foreign. The sea bass tasted fresh to me, you could really get the essence of the fish, through the admittedly mild curry. The okra is my favorite, though I'm not an okra fan all the time. But Akbar has a way of cooking it so it's just a little crispy with excellent Indian spices.
My wife ordered naan, but I refrained as I am for the moment trying to reduce and watching my starch intake.
For a long time my wife and I ate Indian food constantly. We ate it at Calcutta Cricket Club/McGinty's, we ate it at India's Inn, India's Oven and Bombay Cafe. But we were spoiled by the superiority of East India Grill, which is still open but not in the original owner's hands.
Akbar is the closest we've found to really great Indian food. We like other places ok, but don't crave them the way we did East India Grill. Akbar satisfies the craving. I recommend Akbar for well-conceived, high quality Indian food.
(One piece of trivia: The brothers who run the Akbar chain were at one time friendly with the former owner of East India. Their father taught the EIG owner to cook - or at least mentored him and shared recipes. So, while the dishes at East India were quite different, the shared emphasis on quality is no surprise. At least that's what they told me during casual, owner-customer conversation.)
Akbar in Santa Monica has a luncheon menu where many items are $8 (+ or - a $1) and they come divided into 3 parts: rice, vegtable/salad, and what you ordered. Also, it comes with a large slice of Nan plus a all-you-wana/can-eat 3 bowl condiment tray/dish including, my favorite, Mint Chutney. Bottom line - for under $10 (w/ water, Coke is like $1.95 with free refils) I am complelty full and happy.
Clay Pit in Brentwood on Barrington near Sunset. I been about 5 times. Went on a Wed. only 1/3 occupied, ordered the Tandori Shrimp and it was one of the best Shrimp dishes I've ever had. Went 3 weeks later on a Sat. night, every seat is taken and the staff were rushing around. Ordered the Tandori Shrimp again and it is ordinary.
I had dinner at Akbar (Santa Monica location) on friday night around 8p. I went based on positive reviews from this board. We ordered lamb vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, nan, rice, gaita, and a big Karma beer.
I haven't been to many Indian restaurants and don't eat Indian food that often, so when I do, I usually test the waters with lamb vindaloo. This was the worst lamb vindaloo I've had--other places tried include Bombay Cafe, Tantra (in Silverlake; don't know if it still exists), Gate of India (across from Ye Olde King's Head; had beef here because I was sharing with someone who doesn't like lamb), Pradeep's (frightening but true), and some place in London where I had my first Indian food 10 years ago. The lamb was dried out like it had been boiled mercilessly instead of gently simmered or it had been re-heated too many times. It was also undersauced, partly because the meat was so dry. The lamb was also overly gamey. The chicken was above average but not special. The nan seemed to lack the ingredient that makes it nan and not a fluffy tortila or chalupa shell. I've never seen a nan recipe to know if it's sugar or what that makes it addicting.
I was surprised that there was only one other party in the restaurant on a friday night.