Restaurant Review #209: Passage to India, Van Nuys

For the most part, the only way to get Indian food in Van Nuys is to have it delivered through a special restaurant delivery service that charges an arm and a leg in extra fees and minimum orders. Thankfully, there is an alternative: Passage to India on Burbank at Hazeltine. With decor that hasn't been updated since the '70s and a location in a tacky strip mall containing a falafel joint and a key duplication shop, the restaurant isn't much to look at. Nor is the food particularly outstanding despite the menu's claims that its chefs were top chefs in Bangladesh, England, and Saudia Arabia. But in a neighborhood with no other Indian options and with Chinese and pizza as the only other affordable delivery places, even merely passable Indian food is a much-welcomed option.

Chicken vindaloo

Juicy, tender chicken and buttery potatoes bathe in a tame sauce with long strips of fresh ginger. This dish would be good if it came from a crock pot in Iowa, but it's too tame to call itself Indian.

Mattar Paneer

At the opposite end of the spectrum lies the mattar paneer. The most flavorful dish by far, the sauce has a hint of smokiness and a touch of sweetness the envelopes the tender, perfectly-cooked peas.

Aloo gobi

Another of Passage to India's better dishes is the aloo gobi, fork-tender cauliflower with potatoes and sauce. Although no Indian restaurant does this, cutting the potatoes into smaller chunks would make them more flavorful.

Chicken Tikka Masala

The chicken tikka masala is creamy and flavorful, but it's hard to get past the alarmingly artificial-looking color. If you're particularly coordinated, perhaps you can eat it with your eyes closed.

Curry chicken

The curry chicken doesn't live up to its name--it's surprisingly bland. Don't bother with this dish.

Lemon pickle

The lemon pickles have a pungent, sour smell and an intense heat that sneaks up on you. As good as they are, there's a decent chance you could pick up an identical product in a jar in Artesia (for the same price as this tiny $3 cup--but a little goes a long way).

Gulab jamun

The gulab jamun are not very flavorful, not very soft, and have a few hard, unpleasant bits of cardamom seeds.

This review isn't exactly a rave, but when you don't feel like getting in your car and that jar of simmer sauce from Trader Joe's just isn't going to cut it, Passage to India still makes for a pretty satisfying meal if you order well. The menu has a pleasing number of options, including beef dishes and lots of shrimp dishes. Rice is not included, so make sure to order some. The naan is good if you like yours soft and chewy (but you'll have to pay extra for chutney). Prices are typical Indian restaurant prices: $6.95 to $7.95 for vegetarian dishes, and $9.95 to $12.95 for chicken, lamb, and beef dishes. All dishes can be ordered mild, medium, hot, or "phall hot". Medium spice seems to be pretty mild, but hot may be a little too hot.

For takeout, calling in your order is a better idea than just stopping by. The food seems to be at least partly made to order given the time it takes to prepare and the aromas that emanate from the kitchen only after you place your order, so you'll wait a while if you just walk in. Delivery arrives in a blessedly reasonable amount of time even on a Saturday night (also unlike the multiple restaurant delivery service, which takes at least an hour).

Passage to India
14062 Burbank Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91401
Lunch buffet 11:30-2:30 daily
Dinner 5:00-10:00
Free delivery within two miles

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