Independently-owned-and-operated, well-priced places
Your Go-To Girls for LA Gastronomy are in fact, us, Lisa and Diane Scalia of Melting Pot Tours. This is a new – albeit armchair – extension of our Tours. Trust us to point you in the direction of independently-owned-and-operated, well-priced places in our great city’s neighborhoods, that you surely deserve to know about!
This post shines light on our passion for Indian cuisine ~ we’re quite positive we’ve lived past lives in India! We are blessed with amazing choices for this exquisite food all over town, we’ll show you where to find it.
Lisa’s and my exploration of where and how to fall in love with Indian cuisine dates back to the 1980s, when this cuisine was only just arriving in LA, at least in our experience …
Lisa had lived for a year in London. Having missed Mexican food as her mainstay, she reveled in discovering the amazing flavors – and comfort -that the abundance of Indian food offered, right there at home in London. Upon her return to LA, it was tricky to find the cuisine she was now crazy about.
As for me, I didn’t really catch on until a co-worker took me to Nizam of India in West LA, which had opened in 1985. (It was the first Indian restaurant in West LA, and it warms my heart to know that the current Chef is following in the footsteps of his uncle, its original Chef.) With one taste of their Indian-spiced tomato soup, every fiber of my being wondered where this food had been all my life. With my first bite of their signature tandoori naan (clay oven-baked bread), I was toast.
Purest pleasures in life
Since that time, we have made seeking out – and delighting in – Indian food as one of our purest pleasures in life. If you haven’t visited this realm of the sublime just yet ;-), and especially if you are hesitant to dive in … we have a couple of tips to inspire you and yours to at least dip your toes in the water:
- Start with the house’s Tandoori chicken or even fish. Gently ask for mildly-spiced; be open to trying any sauce or chutney served on the side. Chicken Tikka Masala is also a good choice; this mildly spiced yogurt sauce recipe was developed for Western palates.
- A rice dish is always a winning idea. Biriyani dishes are usually a mix of rice, protein, and vegetables. Ask for guidance re: spice levels.
- Don’t miss the naan. Order the plain if the garlic or onion or other special doesn’t resonate with you but, don’t miss the naan!
- Consider a buffet lunch or dinner, and choose foods that are particularly eye-appealing. Prepare your senses for “new” that will not disappoint!
- Surely ask for suggestions from your server because they are always very educated about the menu. In our experience, they are equally passionate about making their guests happy.
Now. Having said all that, let me continue by recommending our very-own favorite haunts in and around LA, by neighborhood. This list is followed by a list of more places that trusted afficionados have heartily sworn by … as in, very dear tour guests of mine this last weekend, including a lovely gentleman from India!
WEST LOS ANGELES / HOLLYWOOD
Nizam of India ~ Across from the Westside Pavilion. In West LA for over 30 years; 2nd generation now serving cherished family recipes.
Electric Karma ~ When our Tours explored West 3rd Street, we dined here. Gorgeous, romantic interior, extraordinary food and service.
Star of India Tandoori Restaurant ~ in Hollywood, established 1982. They serve 100% Halal meat, and there is free parking!
All India Cafe ~ Sister restaurant to the one we feature on our Old Pasadena Tour. Specialties from all regions of India, wonderful service.
Spice Affair Beverly Hills ~ This higher-end, fine dining choice is such a glorious experience, it is worth the splurge. Whether you’re enjoying a romantic date or addis tandoorspecial occasion with family, you will feel so well-cared for. The setting is uber-beautiful, and the Bar is also very special. The opening photo for this story is their Duck-and-Date Melange appetizer.
Bollywood Zaika ~ This innovative, incredibly delicious counter-service place is the current object of my obsession, and was the inspiration for this story! Owners wish to bring you a little Bollywood to Hollywood; their menu is perfectly designed and priced, and hospitality is bar none! Their “plate” is pictured (above, right) with Hello Kitty.
Addi’s Tandoor ~ In my experience, the staff here are as yummy and wonderful as the food. One of the most gastronomically-rich treasures in the beach cities. A vision of their table is in photo (above, left).
Tibet Nepal House ~ Right in Old Pasadena, they are friends of our tours. Unique and superb menu of specialties – including Yak meat – native to these regions. There are only 2 or 3 restaurants like this in the US!
All India Cafe ~ Of course we give honorable mention since our Old Pasadena tour stops here. Mentioned above is their LA location.tandoori-mahi
Akbar Cuisine of India ~ This was another of my first experiences of Indian food, at their Marina Del Rey location. Chef Avi’s menu is inspired by the Akbar the ancient Emperor, whose taste palate required ingredients only available to royalty, like cashews and saffron. Any menu item titled Akbari is going to be dream-worthy! Kochi in Hermosa Beach, is also theirs; it’s new, I haven’t tried it yet. Their Tandoori Mahi is in photo, right.
LONG BEACH AND ORANGE COUNTY
Kamal Palace ~ Marina Pacifica, Long Beach. Lovely setting on the water, it’s perfect for a extra-special or romantic occasion!
Tandoori Garden ~ Anaheim/Orange. Owned by one of Devan Shah’s protegees. Innovative dishes look like fine art on the plate, very highly recommended!
Chado Tea Rooms ~ in Old Pasadena, Hollywood&Highland (next to Dolby Theater), Downtown LA, coming soon to Torrance ~ We mention our beautiful friends at Chado for a million good reasons. Their luncheon and High Tea menus are very subtly-Indian-inspired, and this is another great way to dip your toes in the water for tasting this cuisine, especially their Tomato Soup! Founded by the late Devan Shah and his lovely wife Reena, this family and their Chado Tea have been blessings in our lives since we started our Tours in 2008, so we are honored to recommend them!
Mint Leaf Altadena ~ came highly recommended by my passionate tour guests who claim this place is a true treasure for the senses!
Samosa House Culver City, West LA,, Santa Monica, Silverlake ~ Specialty is Gourmet Indian Vegetarian and Vegan and, they have grocery stores!
Biriyani Kabob House Central LA ~ Specialty is Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi.
And finally, in ARTESIA ~ SoCal’s own Little India (Cerritos area; 91-freeway at Pioneer):
Udipi Palace ~ Famous for vegetarian dosas and samosas.
Shan Halal Meat & Grocery ~ Famous for incredible meat selections, including goat.
I’d love to close with a few closing comments if I may ;-). Lisa and I were musing about how, of all the types of restaurants we’ve eaten at … we have never had a sub-par meal at an Indian restaurant. Ever.
We think it has something to do with there being hardly any Indian restaurant franchises. All Indian restaurants seem to be owned and operated by families, which dramatically aftects quality assurance and control, to say the least.happy is bollywood
I think it has everything to do with the tremendous pride, passion, and deep level of caring that goes into every recipe prepared. Each represents a cherished culture, tradition, perhaps memory, and a very important part of who this family is; who these people are. We are graced beyond measure to have that kind of heart and soul poured into every dish set before us, and that is why it has been my privilege to bring this story to you.
I leave you with this food for thought from our friends at Bollywood Zaika … just on the right.
Until next time, I remain ~
Your Chef and Tour Maestra