Indian Kitchen in West Hollywood seems to us the perfect marriage of Indian and California culture and cuisine. The menu is Northern Indian all the way, but the dishes have been altered to suit a Los Angeles clientele. Beef, an option not usually found on Indian menus, shows up as a protein choice and sauces are lightened with coconut milk replacing 75% of the heavy cream normally found.
They also embrace vegan and vegetarian options, happily supporting those whose lifestyles require few or no animal products.
We noticed some unique drinks and ordered the ginger iced and ginger hot tea. Both have a serious ginger bite and come unsweetened. Sugar packets on the table can be added for those prefering a sweet and spicy ginger experience. Iced chai and spiced iced tea are also available for warm Southern California days.
We like to start with papadum, lentil and garbanzo flour, folded, flat, crisp breads that go well with chutney.
Mint chutney, spiced with green chili and cilantro is an herb based, savory dipping sauce while the tamarind chutney is a well balanced sweet and sour contrasting encounter. Either can be spooned onto appetizers or salads for enhanced oomph.
The mixed vegetable pakora appetizer starts with freshly shredded vegetables and dips them into a garbanzo batter laden with spices before frying them up. They remind us of the Jewish flavors of both falafel and potato pancakes, as if they were unified in one dish.
A chana chat salad takes Indian street food and transforms it into a refreshing starter of garbanzo beans, spiced potato, cucumber, tomato and raw onion, mellowed by yogurt and chutney for a tongue teasing melange of flavors.
We were informed that the secret to Indian cooking is the fresh whole and ground spices imported from India. Nutmeg, mace, turmeric, curry powder mixes, cumin, coriander and garam masala (a combination of Indian bay leaves, cloves and cardamom) are some of the spices responsible for the flavor profile.
Most dishes can be ordered with guests choice of chicken, lamb, beef, fish, shrimp or tofu.
Ginger chicken, presented on a sizzling platter, has a sharp snap of the fragrant root which permeates the tender, white meat poultry in addition to the infusion of smokey flavor from the tandoor oven.
The chicken and lamb shish kabob are an interesting mix that are beautifully enhanced by the sweet grilled onions abounding on the hot skillet.
Each biryani we taste is a new adventure and we were particularly taken with Indian Kitchen’s lamb biryani. A dry, non-greasy, yet exceptionally moist, well spiced and saturated bed of rice and peas conceals soft chunks of roasted lamb topped with crunchy fried onions. Each bite is a journey along the spice trail and we were seduced by the savory cinnamon accents.
Our chicken pasanda was a fragrant green curry, combining pistachio nuts, herbs and a special spice blend that retains a nut crunch and texture in the creamy, tangy, lemon kissed dish.
A coconut cream, lightened version of chicken korma carries the full savoriness of the rich sauce and is topped with raisins and cashew nuts. We are thankful that it doesn’t weight us down with gobs of heavy cream.
The classic chicken tikka masala also gets a reinvigoration of coconut cream in place of most of the heavy whipping cream, resulting in a delightful Indian spiced tomato sauce.
Those looking for healthy alternatives have a lot to choose from including the jalfrezi or zalfraze. This light dish, no matter how you spell it, is a tumble of vegetable chunks and the protein of customers choice resulting in a dry, stir fry, cauliflower, bell pepper, tomato and onion melange.
We like it hot and if you do too, check out the volcano, one of the chef’s secret recipes. We managed to pry out that it is based in hot red chili powder, crushed red chili flakes and ghost peppers. Our lamb volcano also incorporates a blend of turmeric, curry powder, bay leaf, curry leaves, coriander, paprika, nutmeg and black pepper. We requested ours medium which left a nice tingle trail over the tongue and down the throat.
The staff at Indian Kitchen are well aware of the dietary restrictions that abound in our fair city and are happy to accommodate guests.
From the vegetable menu, fresh okra is sautéed along with onions, tomatoes and herbs in the bhendi masala. The chefs definitely know their way around okra and its optimal preparation.
Tofu makhiani is a tomato based cream curry with roasted garlic and ghee resulting in a buttery, tomato sauce often referred to on menus as butter chicken (when served on chicken not tofu of course).
And the tofu yellow curry is an onion based sauce tinged with turmeric for a sweet and spicy treat.
Lunch specials are affordable and available Monday through Fridays.
And finally don’t forget to check out the dessert menu where we found some of the best rasmalai we have had locally. Milk based patties in a creamy sauce are scented with rose water and this version brings together the soft textures, full boded smoothness and crunch of pistachio in a perfect blending with nothing overpowering the delicate balance.
For a creative Indian dining experience, with nods to America’s love of beef and California’s desire for stellar health, The Indian Kitchen satisfies everyone in exactly the form that works best for them.
The Indian Kitchen, 8165 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046
Phone – 323-656-9000 web site – indiankitchenla.com