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Apr 7, 2006 07:26 PM

Gangadin Indian Cuisine report (long) in Studio City

  • m

The first thing that strikes me about this unassuming little Indian restaurant, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Studio City on Ventura Place, is its chic simplicity. Gorgeous and fragrant arrangements of white Casablanca lilies decorate the room and little sprays of freesias adorn every glass-topped white linen table.

Gangadin is a delightful neighborhood restaurant run by the genteel and hospitable Manmeet Sahni, and boy does he have some stories to tell. Serving traditional northern Indian fare, his restaurant has been a Studio City fixture for the past 22 years. Sahni reminisces, "We used to feed the cast and crew from the Remington Steele set when they were shooting nearby. Also the guys from Hill Street Blues." Sahni chuckles as he recalls the time a few guys in their cop costumes stopped by for lunch and sent two of his illegal Mexican kitchen hands running down the back alley in a panic.

We were in very good hands as Sahni composed a tasting menu especially for us. A modest note at the top of the menu informs us that all their dishes are cooked without MSG, butter, ghee, sugar or any animal fats. We started with a sample of their onion pakoras and vegetable samosas ($3.50). These standard appetizers came out piping hot and were served with an array of three fresh, house-made sauces of red sauce, mint sauce and a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. Though fried, these two delights were surprisingly absent of grease. Samosas are an Indian pastry filled with peas and delicately spiced steamed then mashed potatoes while the pakoras are basically onion rings dipped in spiced gram (chickpea) flour and fried. It certainly was a tasty way to kick off the evening.

Next came the pillowy garlic naan ($2.50), cooked in their tandoor oven, and some Peas Pullav which was basmati rice that was scattered with peas, saffron and tiny cumin seeds ($2.00). These were the essential accompaniments for the fabulously aromatic curries that followed. We got to sample their orange-daubed tandoori Chicken Tikka ($10.50) straight off the skewers and tossed with grilled onions as well as our all time favorite Chicken Tikka Masala ($9.95), which is the same barbecued chicken but served in a delectably seasoned tomato and cream sauce. One dish we have to try at every Indian place is their daal and at Gangadin the Daal Makhani ($5.00) is a fantastically complex lentil curry served in a slightly creamy sauce. When mopped up with either rice or naan, this is a healthy and filling dish.

Lamb Karhai Gosht ($9.95) was a new experience for us. This was a stew of tender and well-cooked chunks of lamb that had been stir fried in a wok with North Indian spices and onions. The result was an ever so slightly sweet and hearty meal.
All of this was washed down with one of the passable California house wines (approx $5.75). My companion opted for one of the four Indian beers on offer, including Golden Eagle, Dansberg and Karma.

Indian food offers many vegetarian options and at Gangadin you can select mild, medium or spicy heat. The weekends can get hectic and Sahni said they tend to steer their overflow to the Thai restaurant a few doors down, and vice versa.

If you’re new to Indian cuisine and don’t know where to start, right now they are offering a five item lunch special starting at $8.95.

So check out Gangadin. You won’t be disappointed.

Gangadin Indian Cuisine
12067 Ventura Place
Studio City Ca 91604
Dine In, Take Out, Free Delivery, Catering
Lunch: Monday-Friday from 12:00 to 2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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  1. Gotta ditch all those fragrant flowers to get a wine lover in the front door.
    Nice write-up though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: carter

      Actually the wine list is dreadful -- three Ralphs Cali standards -- and the flowers aren't overpowering at all.

      But I really enjoyed the cuisine.

    2. s

      Lovely review. Makes me remember why this is my favorite indian joint in town.

      If you are feeling like a nice combination of sweet and savory, try the naan with the dried fruit (Kashmiri Naan) or the rice with the dried fruit.

      1. Sorry to disagree but I do, heartily.

        The word "passable", which you used to describe their wine selection, pretty much sums up the food at Gangadin as well.

        Try a place like Akbar and then tell me that Gangadin is good, I dare you.

        Believe me when I say that I'd love it if there were a great (or even good) Indian restaurant in the Valley. Until I find that restaurant, then the freeway is the way for me.

        Perhaps another hound can point me to the elusive Valley Indian feast that I seek?

        4 Replies
        1. re: c-bo

          Okay -- you're on! I would like to try Akbar. My fave in town is Bombay Palace on Wilshire.

          I would be interested to hear why you find Gangadin's food so mediocre. I agree the wine list is dreadfully sub par.

          1. re: c-bo

            I wouldn't say Gangadin's food is subpar, but certainly not outstanding. Clay Oven is the best I've had in the valley so far. Also in agreemnt with you about Akbar.

            1. re: c-bo

              When it's good, Anarbagh is very good..but unfortunately it tends to be either good or bad, I guess depending upon the day, or staff, or alignment of the planets or something.

              Woodlands pure veggie is good.

              I also likeClay Oven and Punjab.

              Someone told me that typhoon was good, but I've never been.

              1. re: c-bo

                I've been to Akbar (Pasadena) several times. While I like it, if given a choice, I'd take Gangadin every time.

              2. just moved here 5 months ago from nyc and i miss havali immensely. that being said, i like bollywood in studio city. clay oven was dreadful as was some other place we tried. any recommendations on the other side are appreciated.

                1 Reply
                1. re: shrano

                  As I noted below, my fave in town is Bombay Palace on Wilshire, just E of Robertson.

                2. The first thing that strikes me about Gangadin is that, for a mediocre Indian restaurant, it is remarkably crowded for 6:30 on a Saturday night. I had heard that after thirty years in the same location, Gangadin’s rent had been substantially increased, and the family-owned business was struggling to survive. Seeing the place so full seemed like a good sign for them, and perhaps for my companion and me as well.

                  I was hoping that the pressure to make extra cash would force the Sanhi family to innovate their somewhat dull, standard menu, and take a stab at offering something new and exciting. So engrossed was I with the idea that I might find something on the menu akin to the gourmet offerings at Akbar, that I didn’t allow myself be put off by the woman who seated us by shrugging mutely from half-way across the room towards a table suitable for two.

                  We seated ourselves and took in the appealing aromas. We chatted for a few minutes about what we might order. For a few more minutes we watched waiters rush past us with trays of food and drinks. Still later, we picked up our empty water glasses and made more small talk. We noticed another couple arrive. A few minutes later we noticed that the newer couple had already been given water and menus while we were still waiting for ours.

                  “I’m giving them two more minutes,” my companion stated.

                  Two minutes later we walked out.

                  A young man from the restaurant followed us outside and asked if there was a problem. We informed him that we’d been waiting for quite some time without service and were now leaving. He insisted that we come back in and said he would “personally take care” of us.

                  “I don’t know…. Well, okay. We’re already here. Okay”

                  We went back in and our server promptly brought us menus and water. He stood there anxiously and asked if we wanted a drink. We ordered a King Fisher to get rid of him.

                  A minute later he appeared with the beer and a fresh basket of crispy papadum and three house sauces. “No charge for this,” he informed us with an expectant smile. I nodded. He seemed like he need more reassurance that we liked him, but I wasn’t in the mood.

                  He hovered. “Are you ready to order?”

                  We had only been holding the menus for a moment or two, so I asked that he allow us a few more to investigate our options.

                  I was saddened to see that the menu had not changed since I had last eaten there five years earlier. I could tell that no amount of time was going make one of the tired selections Gangadin offered jump off the photocopied pages of this booklet and clamor for my attention.

                  But wait, what about this item, under the “Connoisseur’s Delight” section? Vegetables and homemade cheese cooked in a tandoori oven. That sounded interesting. My companion and I agreed, lamb vindaloo and this veggie tandoori would do it.

                  Alas, when I attempted to order, it turned out that they didn’t actually serve the veggie tandoori anymore. (I have three words for the Sanhi’s about this: Sharpie. Use one.) I opted, with some trepidation, for vegetable curry instead. We ordered both dishes medium spicy.

                  Now we waited. I’ve been to many, many restaurants and am well acquainted with the proper amount of time a customer should wait between visits by the waitperson. I can only guess that the Gangadin staff doesn’t eat out much, because despite having begged us to come back and assuring us that we would have personal attention, here we were, once again waiting for ten or fifteen minutes.

                  Just as we were truly regretting coming back in, the waiter appeared with our food. The rice was fluffy, the naan was hot and crispy and the lamb looked savory. The vegetable curry, however, was sitting in a sauce that looked like it had been prepared by Chef-Boy-Are-Dee. I like curry. I’ve eaten a lot of curry. Indian curry, in my experience is not supposed to be the same color as ketchup. Yet, these vegetables were served in a sauce that was as sweet and red as Heinz from the squeeze bottle, and not spicy in the least.

                  But, we were hungry, and the lamb was okay. Even the curry became edible once we doctored it with the sauces they’d brought to our table earlier. At least twice, while we ate, wait staffers stopped to ask if everything was okay. We nodded and smiled. (It’s just so much easier than telling the truth.) And just as we were working on the last of food, a young staffer stopped to ask us if he could have the sauce tray back to give to someone else. All I could think was, “Wow, are you people clueless about service.”

                  We were not asked if we wanted dessert, which was fine since we really just wanted to get as far away from there as we could. As we rose to leave, another staffer came up to us with some lilies he’d taken from one of the vases and offered them to us as some too-little-too-late gesture of apology or friendship — or maybe that was the dessert. We declined the flowers since we were off to a party and walked out the door for what I can safely say is the last time.

                  Farewell Gangadin, I don’t think even Gordon Ramsay can fix you.