Restaurant Review #79: India's Tandoori, West LA

Malai kofta, garlic naan, and neon chutney

Located in--you guessed it--the second story of a strip mall on Wilshire near Granville, India's Tandoori has the kind of extensive menu that makes life quite difficult for indecisive gals like me. I probably should have gone to the lunch buffet, except that I can't get to the restaurant and back and still have time to eat in the span of my hour lunch break (can I?) and the buffet is only offered on weekdays. They also offer free delivery and take out, so I had takeout last Sunday night when Pho 99 was already closed at 9:00 (why do Vietnamese restaurants close so early?).

While my friend waited for our food, the extremely friendly service seated him and gave him a glass of water. They said the food would be ready in ten minutes, and it was. He observed that the restaurant is nice, but a little gaudy as it is decorated with neon. The tables have white linen tablecloths, which are simple, yet still nicer than many other places. There is a TV in the main room above the register, but the sound was down so it wasn’t obnoxious. He caught a glimpse of another room that perhaps affords a bit more elegance. The place was dead at 9:30 on a Sunday, but at least they were open.

The menu has many sections: soups, appetizers, seafood, tandoor se mulakat (clay oven gourmet specialties), curries, vegetarian specialties, combination bargain dinners, rotis, biryanis, mithe ka lutf (traditional Indian desserts), lunch specials, and beverages. Each section has an ample selection, and there are a full 17--yes, seventeen--vegetarian dishes. That makes me happy. The food is quite cheap, with vegetarian entrees at $6.95-7.95, meat entrees ranging from $7.95 to 14.95 (for rack of lamb), and most seafood entrees $11.95 or 12.95.

The malai kofta was a new dish for me, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I thought the deep fried vegetable balls were too salty and tasted almost like miniature falafel. I liked the sauce though, a creamy tomato and onion sauce that was shockingly spicy--not too spicy, mind you, just that my friend had wisely asked for the food to be prepared hot, and it actually was, and at first, I was shocked. Though I suspect it was still toned down a bit since he's not Indian, the level of spicyness was much better than the white girl special I usually get (and like to whine about-well, not really).

The naan was pretty standard, though there was something I didn't quite like about the flavor that I can't really pinpoint. Maybe the garlic wasn't very good? Maybe I'm crazy? What blew my mind though was the glowing green color of the mint chutney. I've never seen such an unapologetically artificial-colored chutney before. And the non-liquid part of it appeared to either be clear and tinted green by the liquid part, or translucent bright green. What was perhaps even stranger was that it tasted right.

Food chemistry scares me.

For dessert I had the rasmalai, "our own freshly made soft cheese patties drenched in thick, sweet milk laced with grated pistachios and served chilled." It's really difficult to photograph a white hunk of cheese completely covered by white liquid in a white styrofoam cup, so I didn't (hmm, why didn't I take it out and put it on a plate? Silly me). The liquid was creamy and mildly sweet, the cheese patty crumbly and the tiniest bit sour. As an eleventh generation American, I tend to like my desserts sweeter than this, and there were no pistachios to speak of. I think the recipe would benefit from a bit of cardamom and/or star anise. It was very similar to the same dessert at
Jaipur Cuisine of India, though I liked Jaipur's better.

India's Tandoori

11819 Wilshire Blvd
West Los Angeles, 90025

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