Swagat Cuisine of India lassos a tapestry of tastes to curb hunger with a menu of low-fat Indian food prepared in 100 percent vegetable oil. Warm up stiff stomach-based food processors with pre-meal stretches of samosa ($2.95) or vegetarian pakora ($3.95), a gaggle of cauliflower, potato, and spinach dredged in chickpea batter, fried golden brown, and painted with tomato chutney. The lamb korma ($10.95) curbs advancing appetites with a bill of lamb meat simmered tender in an elixir of cream, spices, and nuts. Saag paneer ($8.95), a blend of pureed spinach and cubes of paneer with onion, ginger, and spices, appeases vegetarians, and chicken tikka ($9.95) banishes marinated chicken to the depths of a tandoori oven before it gets a finishing drizzle of tomato-fenugreek-saffron sauce. Guests can anchor any meal with a side of aachar ($0.95), a traditional Indian mix of pickled vegetables bestowed upon victors of dal wrestling matches.
The chefs at Saffron Indian Cuisine & Bar believe Indian cooking is built around three main factors: ingredients, proportions, and timing. It’s a blueprint they've based on generations of family recipes, with which they never stop experimenting. Thus, like a crash-test dummy with a love for avant-garde fashion, the restaurant does not shy away from taking risks. Diners reap the benefits when they savor such house specialties as sutra lamb, which features boneless pieces of lamb cooked with ginger, onion, garlic, and yogurt.
Trial and error aside, Saffron's kitchen staff does abide to many traditional forms of Indian cooking as well. It uses tandoori ovens, for instance, to prepare dishes such as mirchi tikka, a spicy combination of chicken, cayenne, and lime. Fourteen vegetarian entrees, nine of which are vegan, and build-your-own curry dishes arrive atop tables bedecked with tangerine-hued cloths. Rich, fringed red curtains surround the dining area and capture the light flickering from tabletop lanterns.
Karma's chefs craft dishes from scratch with locally sourced produce and an intricate understanding of artisanal Indian cuisine. While diners whet their appetites or build a replica of dining companions with samosas—vegetarian turnovers stuffed with potatoes and spices and served with homemade tamarind chutney ($4)—chicken and lamb curries ($11–$12) primp for their dinner debut in a traditional sauce made from tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, and ground spices. Chefs stuff crispy crêpes with spiced potatoes and dub them the masala dosa ($9), and 10 different naan breads roost in tandoor ovens ($2–$5). When dinner ends, servings of indian rice pudding with green cardamom, known as kheer ($5), wash down meals or accidentally ingested plates. A selection of traditional drinks, including mango lassi and masala chai ($3), supplements a variety of wines and beers, and crisp linens, a tranquil mural, and wood furnishings swaddle spice seekers as they sip.
In Indian culture, Moksha signifies the release from transmigration, or the endless cycle of death and rebirth. It's fitting that Moksha Restaurant Bar & Lounge bears the name, as it has reinvented and added to its menu of traditional Indian cuisine numerous times to critical acclaim. It recently won America's Best Food Award in the Los Angeles Times. Moksha's clay ovens steam with tandoori chicken and chicken tikka, while pots of curries bubble with seasoning and assorted vegetables. Indo-Chinese dishes such as lettuce wraps, fried wontons, and General Tsao's chicken give the menu pan-asian flare. Vegetarian dishes populate every page of the menu, from curries overflowing with veggies to tofu masala.
Inspired by the traditional handmade clay oven, or tandoor, that roasts many of its signature dishes and breads, Tandoori Grill specializes in slow-cooked Indian recipes. White-meat chicken marinates overnight in a special house sauce before joining herb-steeped lamb and fish in the oven. Curries and kormas flavor lamb, chicken, prawns, and vegetables ready to be scooped up with 11 varieties of naan and other flatbreads. In the dining rom, paintings of the Taj Mahal and other Indian scenes dot burgundy-colored walls that match the tablecloths and clash terribly with redheads.