I have yet to write a review of an Indian restaurant on Tasting Page. I'm not allergic to Indian food, and I actually really like the cuisine. Some of the takeout stuff isn't noteworthy unless you're looking to ingest pools of grease and slip into a food coma for several hours. I guess I just haven't found that many, ok any, Indian food worth talking about. Until now, with the arrival of Akasha's Sambar in Culver City.
You may recognize the name Akasha from another popular Culver City restaurant of the same name. Akasha Richmond opened Sambar, just a few doors down from her namesake restaurant on Culver Boulevard. Sambar is a lentil based stew, and the first Indian dish Akasha ever tried. She's traveled extensively to India, and has returned with the knowledge of the flavor combinations, as well as a few indigenous ingredients. Richmond is taking the Indian flavor profile and putting a modern spin on it while infusing local, seasonal fare from the area.
What does that look and taste like? While we were reviewing the menu, we were able to get a preview with the Sambar snack mix placed on our table. It's like the best trail mix you've ever eaten with nuts, rice crisps, raisins, sunflower seeds, curry leaves, speckled taro root and toasted dal. There's a bold spice that has you reaching for more, while simultaneously grabbing your drink.
Luckily there are many unique and refreshing drinks. The maharaja is fun to say and even more fun to drink with rye, kummel combier, carrot syrup, beet shrub and lemon juice. Yeah, you've never had that before, but you're going to want another. The darjeeling express features tea infused with white whiskey, lemon and a spiced honey reduction. My only complaint is can I get a bigger glass? They had beautiful stemware and utensils, but let's not reduce the glass size by any more. Big taste, small glass!
The menu is very shareable. Roll your eyes at the notion that it's small plates-ish, but there are some really cool concoctions where you're going to want to try more than one or two items. And you know what's even better? Nothing on the menu is over $20. It's been a while since I've sampled good restaurant cuisine that was reasonably priced.
My dining companion and I thought we were being all noble by ordering the cauliflower to start, but this cauliflower is fried and highly addictive. The good news is that they use a gluten free chickpea batter and Akasha has even set up separate gluten free friers to be sensitive to all of the various diets in Los Angeles. Merci Akasha!
Even though the cauliflower was fried, it was super light and crisp and the tamarind-date chutney added just the right amount of sweetness. The sevpuri chaat ($5) was a crisp chip made of teff puris and stacked with green mango, avocado, pomegranate-mint chutney and tamarind chutney, or as I called it, Indian nachos. Best nacho ever.
Head-on prawns were cooked tandoori style with a mango powder marinade and preserved tomato chutney with lime. The presentation was almost as good as the taste - light, fresh, delicious.
The chicken curry (at $12) was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It's well spiced with turmeric, poppy seeds, star anise, cinnamon, coconut and ginger. That's a super dish and next time I'll try the goat curry. There will be a next time soon.
There are a variety of roti and naan to soak up the great flavors. I had the makki ki roti, a gluten free pressed corn tortilla with ginger, red onions, chili and cilantro. Another beautiful presentation and addition.
Two of us were beyond full with these dishes, but not food coma full. Nothing was heavy and greasy. You could tell how fresh all of the ingredients were while eating, but even more so, afterwards. There was no post-Indian food fatigue after our meal. And all of this, plus 2 cocktails came to $40 each. Now that's a good evening I'm ready to repeat.
9531 Culver Boulevard, Culver City