We all concurred that we love this restaurant.
And it wasn't because we think one of the waiters has a crush on my friend.
Nor was it because the aforementioned waiter switched the rose on our table out for one with a larger bloom.
Nor was it because he made it a point to turn on the bright blue and green cheesy light-up mural behind our table--the one that depicted a coastline and played corny ocean sounds--to provide after-lunch entertainment.
Who needs the ocean when you've got this?
No, it was because the food was actually really good. So much, in fact, that we've actually gone to the Bollywood Cafe twice in the last 5 days. (Talk about FOCD!)
For some reason, it's a little reminiscent of those small Indian restaurants in London, or maybe just the ones I've seen...complete with burgundy red table linens, a bar, and waiters dressed in waiter-tuxes, it makes me wanna go back to jolly old England.
For starters, samosas, of course. These fat little triangles crisp, flaky outer shell, revealing either spiced ground lamb with peas or curried potatoes and peas. I'm not a huge fan of ground lamb, since I know that ground meat is usually of a lesser quality and freshness than unground meat and if you're dealing with lamb it's important, but the ground lamb here wasn't all that gamey. Perhaps because it was actually, perhaps it was because of the spices. Either way, the potato ones blew the meat ones away. They were soft, yet still chunky enough to have substance, and spiced just enough so as to not be too overpowering.
We weren't aware that their lunch specials are served almost family style with a heaping mound of basmati rice and a basket of naan for us to share, else we would have ventured into more variety on our first visit. My three friends ordered the chicken tikka, chunks of marinated roasted boneless chicken that seemed to stare back at you with its powerful orange glow. They asserted themselves well--they were indeed powerful, packing a spicy punch (even at the middle spicyness...the waiter warned one of my friends not to order the "very spicy" and he was right!) while having a perfect moist interior.
Orange is your friend: Chicken Tikka
I gotta say, though, that my chicken tikka masala kicked their chicken tikka butts. I was a little wary of ordering it at first, being that my last experience with chicken tikka masala at Los Feliz's Electric Lotus was watery, bland, and awful. But hey, it's their signature dish, so what the heck. It's not too exciting looking--just chunks of chicken sitting in a pool of thick, burnt-orange colored gravy, but one bite and the flavor blew me away. I loved the its hints of nuttiness and how the spiciness just kinda crept up on me like it was somehow planned that way. The chunks of chicken tikka, already tender, soaked up the masala sauce perfectly.
Same applies here, but more so: Chicken Tikka Masala
Their basmati rice was, well, just basmati rice, but was fluffy with that teeny tiny tinge of dryness that I like from this kind of rice and offset all the strong flavors nicely. The naan, however, was heavenly. Thin, yet pillowy, charred on the edges and wherever the dough bubbled up, it was perfect for sopping up every last bit of that delicious masala sauce. OK, well not every last bit. I actually had two leftover chunks of chicken leftover and a wee bit of basmati rice that I carried home in a doggie bag and scarfed down in a snacking binge the next day. Yeah, you know those times when you go to the kitchen and eat leftovers out of the conatiner? Well, they tasted just as good leftover. A really, really good sign in my book.
Like NAAN other
We were all stricken with FOCD, because we were back in less than a week. We decided to go true family style this time, going with the potato samosas, the must-have chicken tikka masala which was just as delicious as the first time, a chicken vindaloo, a sag paneer, and a sag aloo. Waiter-guy-who-has-a-crush-on-my-friend brought us a free basket of papadums: crispy, spicy rounds of Indian crackers that we dipped in various dipping sauces--one that was sweet and smoky, another that was green and clearly contained cilantro (blech!)--and raved about until our lunches arrived. I liked the vindaloo, containing curried chicken and potatoes, though it reminded me a little of a Chinese chicken curry dish that my parents make. It was certainly nice to have vegetables with our lunch this time, and because spinach seems to be a favorite for all of us, we decided on two "sag" dishes: sag paneer, creamed spinach cooked with cubes of cheese, and sag aloo, creamed spinach with potatoes. Both dishes were spiced very well with cumin, cardamom and ginger and were both good in my opinion, though because the sag paneer had more naughty stuff like cheese and cream, I preferred the sag paneer much more than the more healthy sag aloo. Another great meal.
Papadums...once you pop, you can't stop
Our second round...even better than the first!
Let's see which comes first, more FOCD and many more trips to Bollywood Cafe, or realizing that waiter-guy is more on the creepy side than the nice one. Let's hope it's the first.
11101 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604