Lawrence of India has fantastic Indian/Goan food!
There's another thread wandering around here, to the effect that the Westside has no good Indian food. This morning, I would have agreed, but tonight, I can joyfully report that that thread is flat-out wrong.
You wouldn't know it from their sign, but Lawrence of India (please don't hold the punny name against them) specializes in the spicy, coconutty, vinegar-laced food of the chef's home state, Goa. As with other Chow favorites, you're probably better off skimming through the regular menu before proceeding to the "Chef's Specials".
The star dishes of the evening were two curries. The Goa-style shrimp curry was rich and subtly flavored with spices and vinegar. The Chicken Xacati "Shakuti" was bold, complex, and earthy and reminded me a bit of a Oaxacan mole.
The other noteworthy dish of the evening was the chana masala appetizer. Ordinarily I'm not a big fan of chana masala, but this one had a meaty texture and exploded in our mouths with flavor.
The naan had a bit of crust on the outside and a chewy center that reminded me of a good Italian bread. The raita was thick and well spiced, but still mild enough that it didn't overwhelm the other dishes.
Not everything was fantastic: the lamb tandoori, while perfectly spiced, was somewhat overcooked, and the daal soup was rather bland. And the service was a bit slow, though I suspect that was due to each dish being prepared to order. I'm willing to wait for great flavor.
Dishes that are on my must-try list for future visits include:
"Sorpotel": a traditional pickled pork stew,
Goan sausage "Chouriço", which I assume is some sort of Indian-Portugese fusion sausage,
Karela: stuffed, spiced, and roasted bittermelon,
White pumpkin soup (which doesn't sound all that special, but our waitress kept raving about it, and she was right about everything else),
and apparently vindaloo, although available in every two-bit Indian joint in the country, is originally a Goan dish, so I'll be needing to try that too.
The restaurant was disturbingly empty for a Saturday night, a situation which I have to attribute to the economy, or perhaps the corny name, or the restaurant's location in the midst of a sea of mediocre Indian joints. But a restaurant this good should not lack for customers, so I hope my fellow hounds will join me in helping keep this place open.
10032 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Pictures at www.lawrenceofindia.com
They try very hard to please and do a very nice job. There are also daily "freebies" if you spend at least $20 (one night it is a mango lassi, another night chicken wings, another sheesh kebab, etc.). The shrimp curry was very good, though I thought the shrimp themselves were a tad overcooked--I had a similar experience with the shrimp at Mayura recently--but not to the point of detracting from the excellent curry they came in. The Chicken Xacati, pork stew and Goan sausages sound terrific so something to keep in mind for my next visit.
I used to live just off of Inglewood Blvd. in Mar Vista, a very quick walk to the old Lawrence of India, right across the street from El Abajeno and Sanchez Meat Market. Boy those were the days, and I'll never forget showing up and finding that Lawrence was no longer. That was 20 years ago and I just figured he and his family moved back to India.
Oh the joy of discovering their new place on Venice! I was in the car with a buddy of mine and just happened to look over at the mini-mall and oila'! there was good ol' Lawrence of India! I can't WAIT to get back there.
Thanks for this post. I'll preface this by stating I'm not an Indian food expert by any means. I'm familiar with the food having eaten it regularly but that's about it. Best Indian meal we've had was in London a couple of years back and where I picked up more perspective, but that's the extent of my knowledge and experience. Anyway, we had dinner here tonight and really enjoyed our food.
We ordered the pork stew Sorpotet, the Goan sausage Chouriço, the chicken stew Xacati, and the Lamb Vindaloo
. We made two of the dishes dinner plates and the other two ala carte. Dinners come with soup or salad and choice of naan, steamed rice, brown rice or rice pilaf. We made our naan an onion one. We chose the Dahl soup to go with the dinners. As an added bonus, if you order at least $20, you receive a free item. Every day it's a different feature. Tonight it was the sheekh kabob.
The soup was rich and hearty, perfect starter on a cold windy night. The kabob was four pieces on a bed of onions that came on a sizzling skillet. It was different from the middle eastern kabobs I'm used to, this was more highly spiced with a deep reddish tinge. It was tasty to us.
The sausage was served with onions and green peppers and did remind me vaguely of a linguica portugese sausage but with a coarser texture. Pork stew was diced pork pieces with the sauce also being deeply resonant of varied spices. All the sauces from the lamb vindaloo, to the chicken to the pork were so flavorful and distinctive from each other.
We absolutely loved the onion naan. Soft and pillowy on the inside with a good chew and texture, a very generous portion. It made a good accompaniment to the various stews and condiments.
The service was warm and attentive. The food didn't take a long time to come out but it's not fast food either. We were served by Lawrence himself and his daughter Debbie. Apparently Lawrence just loves to cook and missed having a restaurant after he closed down the original place years ago. Along with the food came the usual tray of condiments seen in most Indian places. A mild mint sauce, red hot sauce, sweet tamarind sauce and some pickled vegetables. We also received some mango chutney and a different kind of pickled vegetables that were more lime than vinegar based. These last two were just some leftover kitchen experiments they had and may not always be available.
Dessert was another special they just happened to have tonight. Some pineapple pudding. Cubes of pineapple in the pudding with pistachio bits and some ground pistachio powder sprinkled on top. A great light capper to the meal. Overall, we had an enjoyable time. The spices and flavors were similar yet different from the Indian food we've had in the past. It was lighter in some ways and at first taste maybe not as obviously spiced but the flavors are once it settles into the tongue. This was definitely an interesting experience for us
Yeah, we live in that neighborhood too and after dinner on the drive back, my wife had a lightbulb moment. She was trying to figure out why Lawrence looked familiar. It dawned on her that we've encountered he and his wife a few times in our nightly walks around the neighborhood. Always polite and friendly with a nod as we walk pass each other. Never knew it was them.
According to Debbie the daughter, they got out of the restaurant biz and into something else. But went back to it for this because Lawrence just loves to cook. She also informed us of the old Tacomiendo location and said the Indian looking arches at the top of TM's sign is from their old place.
I'm glad we went in there on a Sunday when it was kind of quiet. I didn't feel guilty pestering her with questions about the food and history.