Tables for two are pretty small, but romantic
I'd been wanting to go to Electric Lotus for a long time--and at the same time, I had been wanting to not go. I was attracted by the idea of Indian food in a hip setting. Based on the Zagat Guide's description (this is the part where I incur Jim Leff's wrath) , I envisioned myself sitting on swanky, shimmery blue cushions on the floor while I listened to throbbing deep house music and ate sub-par Indian food while unsuccessfully yelling across the table to whoever ended up accompanying me. Loud, trendy, and sub-par aren't really things that entice me to eat at a restaurant. At the same time, it kind of sounded like fun, and even sub-par Indian food usually isn't too terrible. So a friend and I went, finally, because the other immediate choices were to go home or eat at a chain.
Street parking is pretty much impossible at Electric Lotus--you will have to deal with the crappy valet service. By crappy, I mean that when you pull up, no one is there to take your car. When someone comes to take your car, they don't open the door for you or your passenger. Like many valets, they park the cars with such arrogance and excessive speed that you can't help but tense every muscle in your body and pray that your car won't come back with its bumper and side mirrors missing. When you come back for your car after your meal, you'll have to wait at least five minutes (or in this case, shiver unhappily in the rain). And for such stellar service, you have to pay them $3.50. We tipped fifty cents.
We ordered one of the dinners for two--they were a great deal, at about $35 for two people to eat samosas, naan, three entrees, and two desserts (supersize supersize the American way. . .). None of the vegetarian entrees I would have chosen were options with the dinner for two plan, which annoyed me. I ended up ordering mattar paneer, aloo gobi, and chicken tikka masala. The waitress, who was very friendly, didn't seem to know much about Indian food, as she was impressed that I knew all the Indian names for the dishes. She redeemed herself in every other way though by being so darn nice that I actually left a note on our receipt about how much I appreciated the service. It's just so rare to get competent, friendly service, especially at trendy places where snobbery often seems to be the unfortunate modus operandi.
Dark+ red=hip is an unoriginal formula, but I like it anyway
The main dining room seemed quite noisy and unbearably crowded, but we got seated in a small room off to the side which was quite peaceful, although a bit chilly. Our room was also considerably darker than the main room--bad for food photography, but not so bad if you're feeling romantic or hip (not being able to see your food is cool). While we waited for our table, we succumbed to the temptation of the bar, but at least the drinks were reasonably priced and the bartender didn't skimp on the alcohol. On a Saturday night without reservations, we only had to wait a reasonable fifteen minutes.
The food didn't take long to come once we ordered. True to reputation, the dishes were indeed subpar--the spices were not bold enough and not quite right, and nothing was served hot enough. The texture of the naan was wierd--it wasn't quite chewy enough, and at the same time it seemed a bit undercooked. The rice was overcooked and mushy, but I only cared slightly since I don't eat much rice. Mango chutney was included, which is very unusual--at most places it's about $2.50 extra--though since I don't like mango chutney (too sugary and gooey, like jam) I didn't really care. The aloo gobi had an odd taste though and the potatoes weren't cooked all the way. I ate most of this dish as leftovers when I was too famished to care. The meat in the chicken tikka masala was nice and moist, at least.
The desserts were significantly better--after all, it's hard to mess up things with lots of sugar in them. We didn't get to choose the desserts, which were gulab jamun (the dark brown syrup-soaked balls that are supposedly made of cheese but don't resemble it at all) and kheer (rice pudding). Unlike the rest of the meal, the gulab jamun was served pleasantly warm.
Fun with low lighting
Overall, I wasn't that hungry, and my expectations were fairly low, so I wasn't disappointed. Unless the food improves, Electric Lotus will remain a place for those who are more interested in scene than cuisine.
4656 Franklin Ave (at Vermont)
Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Los Feliz)