Los Angeles Adores the Spicy Fare at These Top Indian Restaurants



Angelenos love their spicy food and there are plenty of Indian restaurants all over Southern California that feed that need. From deliciously tasty spots near the beach like Tandoor-A-India to the modern offerings from Mint Leaf in Pasadena, there are choices galore to get your Tikka Masala or Saag Paneer fix. Los Angeles boasts one of the largest Indian-American populations in the United States, perhaps that is why there are so many Indian eateries to choose from. Some are small, family-run spots while others are chic, sophisticated restaurants in the best parts of town. What they all have in common is a dedication to recreating the special tastes of India, with exotic spices like saffron, tamarind, turmeric, garam masala and many others. Tandoori ovens abound, some made with stainless steel and powered by gas and others (more authentic and harder to find) made of clay and depending on charcoal to create the unique smoky taste that characterizes favorites like Tandoori Chicken. Most places will also let up on the spice level, for those who love the flavors of India but cannot take the heat; simply ask and the chef will adjust accordingly.



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Badmaash
Photo courtesy of Badmaash


 

Badmaash on Fairfax is the second outpost of this Indian-style hipster hangout (the first is on 2nd Street in DTLA) and it seems to be even more popular than its older sibling. The brainchild of Chef Pawan Mahendro and his two sons, Nakul and Arjun, their menu combines traditional Indian dishes (think Tandoori Chicken Tikka, Saag Paneer and Butter Chicken) with all-new takes on Indian cuisine. Bite into the Spiced Lamb Burger that's served up on a Brioche bun and you may not be sure what world cuisine you're eating â€" but you'll know it is something special. Taste Dad's Famous Coconut Curry Mussels, a Madras-style bowl of deliciousness filled with flavors of paprika, turmeric and cilantro, and we're pretty sure you'll add Badmaash to your list of L.A. favorite restaurants. And unlike some Indian places around town, you'll find pork dishes on the menu here, along with vegetarian, lamb, chicken, beef and fish.


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Mayura Restaurant in Culver City is one Indian place that makes certain that their vegetarian customers are taken care of, by dedicating two kitchens to their food preparation. One is strictly vegetarian, making up classic dishes like Vegetable Korma, made with a strong curry, and Eggplant Masala. The other kitchen whips up spicy Chicken Vindaloo, clay-oven cooked Tandoori Chicken and even Goat Curry. This popular, no-frills spot also offers up Uthappam, India's version of pizza, so try the onion, tomato and chili version for a unique taste treat. And if you notice that the Indian flavors taste particularly fresh at Mayura, it is because they travel to India every three months to bring back fresh spices.


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Electric Karma


 

Electric Karma is the place to find authentic, yet unconventional, Punjabi cuisine prepared by owner and chef Paramjit Singh. With a warm, friendly and romantic atmosphere including a pretty open-air courtyard and the candle-lit dining room, the restaurant is perfect for date night. Movie buffs will love the Bollywood films projected silently above the main dining room as world and house music plays, and food lovers will enjoy the varied cuisine that ranges from traditional Vegetarian Samosas, seasoned with tamarind and sweet tomato chutney, to famous dishes like the Nirvana Chicken, cooked in coconut curry. Share the Tandoori Platter and get a taste of many of the best dishes that Electric Karma has on offer.


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Fairfax District
Cardamom Indian Cuisine
Photo courtesy of Cardamom Indian Cuisine


 

Cardamom Indian Cuisine prides itself on making every food item from fresh ingredients â€" there's nothing canned or frozen in their kitchen. Even their spices are bought whole and ground in-house for optimum freshness. Offering dishes from all over India, this sophisticated eatery also features an extensive wine list, with pairings offered by the knowledgable wait staff or from co-owner Nasir Syed. He and his brother-in-law, Cardamom Chef Badrul Chowdhury, bring decades of restaurant experience to this special place. With a charcoal Tandoori oven, Chowdhury concocts dishes like Murgh Tikka (diced chicken breasts cooked in spices) and Tandoori Machli (marinated fish). For a completely different taste, try the Biryani or one of the flavorful curries; there are vegetarian choices and all the typical Indian breads on the menu as well.


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La Cienega Corridor
Spice Affair
Photo courtesy of Spice Affair


 

Spice Affair offers a fascinating amalgam of old and new Indian cuisine in a beautiful setting. Chefs Anupam Bhatia and Nimish Bhatia quickly made their marks with their creative offerings, as Spice Affair was rated the #1 restaurant in Beverly Hills for 2015 by TripAdvisor and also won the OpenTable Diner's Choice Award that same year. Start with a Tandoor-smoked Pineapple Quencher (a signature drink) and continue on to sample the Goat Cheese and Asparagus Tikki, Black Pepper Shrimp or Flash Grilled Sea Bass. You'll find classic curries, biryanis and masalas on the menu as well; all are served with a modern twist that with surprise and delight.


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Taj Mahal Cuisine of India


 

Chef-owner Dev Singh opened Taj Mahal Cuisine of India in Encino more than thirty years ago and he's still going strong with this award-winning restaurant guaranteed to tickle your tastebuds. Using a clay Tandoori oven, Singh creates classics like Chicken, Lamb or Fish Tikka Kabab as well as more unexpected dishes like Tandoor Rack of Lamb. His menu also features numerous vegetarian choices including Karahi Paneer and Bhindi Masala, but save room for dessert, which features Kulfi (Indian ice cream flavored with cardamom). To try a lot of different dishes, visit Taj Mahal Cuisine of India for their lunch buffet offered Tuesday through Saturday, or their Champagne brunch buffet every Sunday.


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Streets of India Cafe


 

Streets of India Cafe is a family-owned restaurant that specializes in cuisine from India, Nepal and Tibet. It's a family-friendly place, too, where kids enjoy sipping Mango Lassi drinks and nibbling on Peshwari Naan, which is Tandoori-oven cooked sweet bread stuffed with raisins, nuts and coconuts. Adults rave about the Butter Chicken and the Shrimp Korma; plus, there are numerous vegetarian choices as well as a vegan section of the menu, with classic Indian dishes made with soy as a substitute for meat. Spice lovers need to try the various Vindaloo offerings and everyone will love the Ras Malai steamed dessert dumplings.


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TŪMBI Craft Indian Kitchen
Photo courtesy of TŪMBI Craft Indian Kitchen


 

At TŪMBI Craft Indian Kitchen, Chef Imran Ali brings an eclectic, exciting twist on Indian food to Santa Monica. His dishes emerge from less-familiar (to most Americans, anyway) places like Rajasthan, Goa, Afghanistan, New Delhi and Pakistan. Which means he's serving up some tasty dishes that people in those places eat as street food like spicy kebabs and Pani Puri, as well as elegant 5-star restaurant classics including the not-to-be-missed Apricot Curry Patagonian Toothfish Masala. That Chilean sea bass dish is spicy and sweet, and especially good with some Naan bread to sop up the excellent sauce. Ali makes plenty of vegetarian options, including the huge Paper Dosa (crepe) made with rice and lentils and paired with yummy chutneys. You can even ask for truffle oil with your dosa, which we highly recommend. Desserts include the Chocomossa, fluffy fried samosas overflowing with rich chocolate.


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Playa Del Rey
Tandoor-A-India
Photo courtesy of Alison Widdoes


 

Tandoor-A-India is the go-to spot for great Indian food near the beach. Located up on the bluff in Playa del Rey, this homey restaurant has an atmosphere that is quiet, quaint and inviting. The place is justifiably famous for their Chicken Tikka Masala; other winners include their Samosa appetizers and numerous variations of Naan cooked in the Tandoor oven. Note that Naan costs extra, but is well worth the spend. Vegetarians will find plenty of tasty choices, with the Channa Masala and Aloo Gobi two popular favorites. Tandoor-A-India offers a lunch buffet for $8.95, as well as takeout, free delivery, catering and serves dinner seven nights a week.


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Mint Leaf
Photo courtesy of Mint Leaf Restaurant


 

If you are looking for top-notch Indian cuisine, the Mint Leaf in Pasadena is the place to be. Entering the exotic space, you'll feel as if you've stepped right into a Mumbai eatery, with its golden lamps, dark leather banquettes, red tapestry chairs and burnished wood floors. Under the helm of Chef Jayanta Paul, the Mint Leaf offers everything from perfectly cooked Garlic Naan (be sure to try the Mozzarella and Pine Nuts Naan, too) to lusciously spiced dishes including a sensational Goan Salmon Curry and a classic Chicken Vindaloo. Start with an order of Shrimp Pakoras, dip them into accompanying the fragrant mint sauce and you're on your way to a wonderful meal. Finish up with the unexpectedly sweet Carrot Halwa Pudding for dessert with its fragrant cardamom spice and you're sure to be planning your next visit as you pay the very reasonably priced bill.


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Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny

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