Indian restaurants tend to have nicer decor, use quality ingredients, and are clean, even with their relatively low prices. Even if the food is mostly brown, it tastes good. I liked Indian curry at first taste, but I still dislike Chinese and Japanese curry. Also, a few other L.A. Indian restaurants that I haven't tried have web sites:
8/24/02 - Working - A cluster of Indian restaurants at the northwest corner of Sherman Way and Topanga Cyn. Blvd. in Canoga Park. All four restaurants were rather full around lunchtime, a good sign, with some Indian customers.
No decor or table service here, and I didn't see or ask about restrooms. Drinks and desserts are also available. Better than average food and a good value. Why spend $3 or more on a burger and fries when this is $2.99?
Other than the tandoori chicken, everything was at least better than average or better. They do tend to spice the dishes more that average, which is good. The garlic naan was very good, but I'd ask for more garlic the next time. Clean, pretty room, but the men's room looks dated.
7/19/02 - India's Tandoori, 142 N. San Fernando Rd., Burbank, CA 91502, phone 818-846-7500. Open seven days, 11:30a to 10:30p. Lunch buffet Mon-Fri, 11:30a to 2:30p for $6.95. Also, untried Sunday champagne brunch 11:30a to 3p for $8.95. There may be several, semiconnected restaurants with this name. The other one I tried at 19006 Ventura Bl., Tarzana, CA 91356 and reviewed below had a completely different menu, I recall. Clean dining room and ok men's room with no soap. However, one teaspoon was so sticky I almost couldn't let go.
The lunch buffet offers 12 items: the yogurt sauce, a vegetable salad, rice, potato and pea curry, garbonzo bean curry, spinach and cheese (more like tofu cheese) curry, thin/crisp cracker, naan bread, chicken Korma curry, tandoori chicken, rice pudding, and bread (cheese?) balls in sweet sauce. On some tables, but not mine - I had to ask for it, was a three-jar rack of mint and tamarind chutneys and the spicy carrot pickles. The chutneys were good, but the carrots were soggy and old. Most items, except the below average carrots and both desserts, were somewhat better than average. The chicken Korma with a sauce of onions, yogurt, and cashews was much better than the typical onion sauce. I prefer tandorri chicken this way: somewhat overcooked, charred, and dried, but with more smoke and flavor; for me, much better than average.
Summary - Better than average food, and some buffet dishes are mildly spicy, unlike the typical buffet of non-hot (spicy) food. However, service, even for a buffet, was below average. I kept having to wait or grab people and ask for things like water, replacement flatware, condiments, dirty-dishes pick up, pick up check, etc. They were about full of customers at lunch but seemed to have plenty of help which didn't help. Wine from $3.50 per glass to $19.95 per bottle.
Historical notes: I first came to this area, like the 100 to 300 N. blocks, in the early 1990s to visit Janet Jarvis's used cookbook store, now moved to Pasadena (see www.abebooks.com/home/JJARVITS/). There were several other new and used book stores close by, some featuring movie books, but now it seems like there are fewer. P.S. - Many used books are 50¢ and $1.00. There was a very casual Indian restaurant, full of Indians, now gone, near this 100 block. The Market City Cafe, where a $50 gift certificate didn't even cover two lunches and one glass of wine (tax and tip even extra), is still here, but they probable won't see me again.
7/21/02 - Sunday champagne brunch - One sign says it's 11:30a to 3p, another noon to 3p, but they weren't ready till after noon. Almost the same 12 items as the weekday buffet (+ was different): the yogurt sauce, +a dry vegetable salad, naan bread, thin/crisp cracker (like papadum), rice, +lentil curry, +potato and green bell pepper curry, +mixed vegetables in a cream curry, +chicken curry, +tandoori chicken, rice pudding, and bread (cheese?) balls in sweet sauce. And, the same three chutneys/carrot pickles on the tables. As on the weekday buffet, all items were above average excert the below average carrot pickles, both desserts, and as noted. The mixed vegetables in a cream curry were much better than average. The tandoori chicken was at first yellow, then the typical orange, of different tastes, with some white-meat parts, but only average. The yogurt was too salty and acidic, and, after an Indian mentioned it, it was replaced, but it still wasn't quite correct. Service was still below average; like, I only asked once but never did receive a glass of water. Still no soap in the men's room except what leaks to the floor from the broken/whatever dispenser. Champagne? - it comes in a test-tube sized glass and includes, the guy said, one refill, but almost no one asked for it anyway. For the Sunday brunch, till I try other places, stay with the Taj Mahal, reviewed below.
7/9/02 - Taste of India, 13903 Ventura Bl., Sherman Oaks, CA, phone 818-501-5550. Also, another untried location at 21833 Ventura Bl., phone 818-999-0600. Lunch 11:30a to 3:00p. Dinner 5:30 to 10:00 or 10:30p. Champagne brunch, $9.95, noon to 3p: Saturday in Woodland Hills and Sunday at both locations; untried. Also, dinner specials from $10.95 to $14.95; untried.
They have four lunch specials, all at $5.99, named lamb curry, chicken curry, tandoori chicken, and vegetable plate. I had the tandoori chicken, a very small leg quarter with flavor and moisture above average. I was confused by the inaccurate menu, but the meal also includes rice, lentils, salad or yogurt, and one of three vegetables. I had the roasted eggplant which tasted good, was a larger than average serving, but it contained too many onion slices. Naan is not included with this special, and not knowing the meal also included lentils, I ordered chapati, whole-wheat bread which was just below average. Carrots pickles and mint and tamarind chutney were brought to the table. The rice, lentils, etc. were average. I order medium spicy, and the eggplant was.
Mostly clean place with a running-water display and a rug in the men's room, but my table cloth was soiled, and I noticed another. A worker with a head wrap make almost continuous out-going phone call during my entire meal - topics like computer repair, etc. After the meal I suggested he needed his own office and stop disturbing the customers. Better than average food, but why not go to a buffet, for about $1.00 or two more, elsewhere?
7/6/02 - Great India Cafe, 12321 Ventura Bl., Studio City, CA 91604, phone 818-761-8140. An ad says they're open seven days, lunch from 11:30a to 3p, and dinner till 10:30 or 11p with free delivery, take-out and catering. Call for details.
A rather large serving of ok food, but perhaps the worst Indian food I've had in the valley. They have nine lunch specials priced from $5.95 to $8.50 with most about $7.00. I had the Tandoori Lunch II at $7.50 which comes with chicken tikka, lamb boti, or seekh kabob and stuff. I had the chicken, three nice breast chunks, but dry with little flavor. That came with potato and pea curry in a redish sauce (below average), dal of the day (just ok), rice (ordinary), naan (ok), and salad (with very little tastless dressing). Not on the menu, there was also an 'appetizer' of a thin lentil waffer with a spicy dip and, on the plate, mint chutney. This sounds like a lot, but it's all comes in very small servings, and I ate it all. Again I ordered medium spicy and got about mild. No other condiments on the table, not even salt and pepper.
At another table, two people were served at once, but the third waited for several minutes. Also, the help, at several points up to four people, sat, ate, and/or hung out in the dinning room with nothing to do but watch the few customers; a max of six customers while I was there, just after noon. My service was ok, but they acted like beginners. You can eat on the sidewalk if that's your thing. They don't do a buffet. Clean. Based on this meal, they're at the bottom of my Indian-food list.
7/5/02 - India's Tandoori, 19006 Ventura Bl., Tarzana, CA 91356, phone 818-342-9100 or 1-800-INDIA-LA. (Both the L.A. Times and perhaps the phone book had the wrong phone numbers.) The sign for the strip mall still has an old name of India's Cuisine. Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., dinner seven days: Sun-Thu 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Fri & Sat 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sunday champagne brunch 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Always call first to check for the newest details. Nice looking, clean place, but feelings around for the light switch is a dark men's room takes a while. (Hint: the light switch is to your lower left as you look out the door.)
Three lunch specials, Mon-Sat?, 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., from $5.50 to $5.95; days not specified(?). (1) is chicken or lamb curry, naan, rice, lentil curry, and salad or raita (yogurt). (2) has one piece of tandoori chicken, cauliflower and potato curry, naan, lentil curry, rice, and salad or raita. I had the vegetarian lunch (3) at $5.50 with naan or whole wheat bread, choice of one of three vegetable dishes, rice, lentil curry, and salad or raita. I selected the roasted eggplant curry and whole wheat bread. I didn't notice the roasted eggplant taste as at the Clay Oven, below. Again, I ordered medium and got mild. Ok food, mild tastes, and, as at all the Valley Indian restaurants, not that much taste difference between the curry dishes -- a big no-no in Indian cooking. Spicy carrots, spicy mint sauce, and tamarind chutney were on the table.
Dinner specials, several, I didn't try, around or under $10. Details someday.
Sunday champagne brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., for $8.95. This I haven't tried but they said there would be, maybe, soup, salad, four vegetables dishes, two meat dishes (chicken and lamb), and probably other stuff. As always, call for the newest details.
Taj Mahal, 17815 Ventura Bl. Ste 201, Encino, CA 91316, phone 818-345-2244. On the second floor with a minor view and an elevator. Web site at www.tajmahaldining.com/. Buffet and dinner coupons at www.tajmahaldining.com/coupons.html or in the Friday U section of the Daily News (buffet coupon only).
Sunday champagne brunch with over 20 items (actually about 21 items), 11a-3p, was $8.95. Mon-Sat brunch with, they say, over 15 items, 11a-2:30p is $6.95. $1.00 off with coupon in papers. Dinner also 5-10 or 10:30p, but call. Menu also, to-go, delivery.
Sunday buffet: mashed-potato pancakes, white rice, garbonzo bean curry, potato and pea curry, mixed vegetable curry, chicken-chunk curry (ordinary), spinach and lamb curry (very good), tandoori chicken (more flavor and moister than most), four salads (ordinary), mint (dry?) & tameran sauces, riata (yogurt sauce), hot sauce, salad dressing, rice pudding, naan, and champagne [should total 21 items, missed one?]. Good value, good stuff, ok champagne, mild flavors, clean, and clean bath rooms. Mint sauce tasted ok but looked dried. Haven't tried weekdays. 6/23/02.
6/30/02 - Returned for the Sunday brunch and found almost exactly the same 20 items, but they tasted almost even better. The only change was 'bread balls' instead of rice pudding. These are like fried donut holes soaked in a sweet sauce. Some places call them cheese balls, I believe they lack cheese, but those do have a better flavor.
7/7/02 - Why again? Cause they have about the best Indian food I've tried in the valley, and, with the $1.00-off coupon, it's hard to beat their Sunday brunch. The food continues to be good. The mixed-vegetable curry (average) was today replaced with what the sign sais was "vegetable karri, vegetable dumplings with onions, ginger and tomato sauce." I believe it was actually something else, in a bright, yellow sauce. Firsts and seconds were plate-licking good, but thirds were average. What happened to their recipe? Bread/milk balls for dessert. They in fact have had exactly 20 items, not 'over 20' as in the ads. Sometimes they add spicy carrot pickles someone said.
7/14/02 (updated 8/7/02) - Another version of their spinach and lamb cury was even better. They used spiced ground-lamb kabobs instead of lamb chunks, and that was real good, but for me they could have used more kabob.
India Cafe, 4523 Sepulveda Bl, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, phone 818-986-8555.
8/2/02 - buffet update. Returned to the buffet today - some items were better, some weren't - more below. But, the buffet is Mon-Fri only. Someone said they're related to the one at 19006 Ventura Bl., Tarzana?
8/2/02 continued (updated 8/7/02) - They now have a menu for their weekday buffets. Everyday has tandoori chicken, a chicken curry, fish korma or keema mattar, three vegetables dishes, rice, krisp cracker, salad, raita (yogurt), desert, and naan at the table, plus the mint and tamarind chutneys. They have fish korma, with a cashew/nut sauce, and saag (spinach) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday and Friday they have mushroom masala. I'm not sure what keema mattar is, but mattar is peas (or cheese?). The 8/2/02 visit was on a Friday, and that's about the best menu for me. The food was ok, but the tandoori chicken tasted salty rather than smokey. For the fish korma, the fish was ok, but the korma sauce with cashew bits was a plate licker. Please tell me they didn't use canned mushrooms in the mushroom masala, but it tasted good. Chicken curry is not one of my favorites, anywhere, but this used tandorri chicken and was much better than most. The waiter and waitress sat near me, and, till they got busy, wouldn't stop talking. Please don't do that. Oh, I did get a dirty table cloth here also. The top of the table cloth stays clean cause it's covered with glass, but people dribble down the sides.
6/19/02 - Now the buffet is Monday - Friday only. I had the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for the new price of $6.95. The to-go menu still states the old price of $5.95. That's Mon-Sat, 11:30a-3p. Was also Sunday at $8.95, they say, with 20 items and champagne. Today's meats were chicken-meatball curry, chunk-chicken curry, and tandoori chicken. Vegetable dishes were spinach (very good), garbanzo beans (slightly spicy), and lentils. There was long-grain white rice, a mixed salad, and a yogurt dressing (like riata?). This dressing can be put on anything for a cooling effect. There were two, good crackers on the buffet, and I'm working on their names. Just try them. Two cold sauces were also available on the buffet: a hot/spicy mint sauce and a tamarind sweet/sour sauce. They served plain naan bread at the table. A rice pudding in heavy cream? was the dessert.
Summary - All the food was good, but, except as mentioned, not spicy hot or spicy in flavor. In fact, I didn't much taste the seasonings with firsts and seconds, but noticed the flavors more with thirds. Items probably change daily, so call for the newest info. Looks like a good value, and the place looks ok. They have other specials, you can order from the menu, and they may deliver. 6/19/02.
Clay Oven, 14611 1/2 Ventrua Bl., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, phone 818-995-1777.
Several lunch specials Mon-Fri from $5.95 to $8.95 and several more everyday from $6.50 to $10.50. On a Sunday I had the 'mixed grill thali' with chicken tikka and sheesh kabab (lamb sausage) and other stuff. Choice of vegetables: I got the roasted eggplant - very good. It was a whole meal except drink and desert. I thought I ordered it medium spiced, but it came out very mild. Details soon. No buffet, but the special combos look like a good value, and the place looks ok. Specials are served Mon-Fri 11:30a- 2:30p or 11a-3p, whatever. Sat and Sun specials are 11:30a to 4p, but always call first. 6/16/02.