Halloween is on the last day of October. Anywhere else, dressing up in just a coconut shell bra and grass skirt as a hula dancer is pretty much out of the question. It’s the height of autumn, and when it’s actually time to go trick-or-treating, the sun has sunken deep into its spooky grave. It’s not just chilly outside; it’s cold. Your coconuts will be shivering in a busty *brr*
Unless you are in southern California.
On Halloween day, if you dress up as a bunny, it better be Playboy, because you’ll be sweating in a full furry suit. (Me? Energizer bunny – pink!) The average temperature is something like 75 degrees, and somewhere in the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area, it’s as high as 85 degrees. Eighty five degrees on the eve of November!!! It feels like triple digits, which it’s not, but everything is relative and 80 degrees in October feels like 100 degrees in July. Too hot. Oh, how I love being Goldilocks in LA!
When the mercury creeps up that little column in the thermometer, the best thing to do is either eat something cold to cool you from the inside out like a salad or sushi, or you could do the exact opposite and eat something hot to combat the hot. Yes, the logic is illogical, but eating something hot, either temperature or spicy, takes advantage of our human physiology. When you sweat, you’re cooling yourself down. Unless you’re sweating inside your full-body Tigger costume, in which case, you should just go home, mama’s boy. LOL!
Over the summer, I cooled myself down by eating steaming hot (temperature) chicken soup at Mom’s. The steam from the bowl, the temperature of the broth, and of course, my totally blasphemous use of sriracha sauce on the chicken, really got me glistening. It felt great. But since there is no way I am driving down to Stepford (aka the OC) when perfect little pirates and princesses run amuck all over the tract housing, and my rational brain tells me to slow down on the ice cold cocktails (it is a Monday after all), I turn to the cooling kick of…Indian food.
India’s Tandoori is one of many Indian restaurants on the Westside that are pretty much indistinguishable from each other because they’ve all got “India” in their names and they all claim to be “number one” and “authentic.” To be quite honest, they are all pretty much indistinguishable by taste as well – I mean, how much better is chicken tikka masala going to be at All India Café than New India Grill? Not much. So India’s Tandoori wins out sometimes simply by the fact that it is the closest Indian restaurant to my house. I measured and it beats out India’s Oven by about 45 seconds. I’m a freak like that.
As always, I can’t seem to stray from my old standards. India’s Tandoori offers a few appetizers like bhaji, which makes me laugh because it sounds like the Korean word for “pants,” and various types of pakoras (chicken, fish, vegetables, or paneer mixed with chickpea flour and deep-fried into a fritter). I always order samosas because I’ve tried most of the other appetizer-type things that Indian cuisine has to offer, and samosas are my favorite. If someone puts a bhaji in front of me, I’m going to eat it – for fox ache it’s basically an Indian-spiced onion ring! But when I get to choose, I will very predictably pick samosas.
At Ambala Dhaba, I had said that their samosas were the sexiest I had ever seen, voluptuous, glistening under the heat of the tiny hanging halogen lamp over our table, somewhat languidly leaning against each other in a pool of their very own sauce. The samosas from India’s Tandoori too, are also beautifully rounded, bulbous creatures, that slope up in a taut curve to a perky little tip. If it weren’t for the fact that one was just barely a half cup-size bigger than the other, I would have thought they were almost too perfect, plastic, and fake. Inside, though, there was nothing fake about the steaming golden muddy mashed potatoes and bright green peas that were surprisingly light in spice for as deeply yellow as it was. A sweet dip in tamarind chutney made for an innocent nibble. Smeared with a spicier cilantro and mint chutney, the samosas became hot and naughty.
I couldn’t believe that we actually ordered plain naan. I almost wished I had ordered the g
arlic naan, as the menu described it as being “stuffed with garlic” and everywhere else, garlic naan is simply sprinkled over top with fresh chopped garlic.
India’s Tandoori does differentiate itself from the others with a slightly broader offering of seafood, more different types of roti (bread) and biryani (rice). I don’t think I have ever ordered shrimp vindalu or fish bhuna, though I am sure that one of these days, yes! I will actually get out of my ordering rut and eat something other than chicken tikka masala, chicken makhni, or chicken korma. But until I am brave enough to perhaps try karhai gosht (lamb in garlic and tomato gravy), I will stay with tikka masala. At India’s Tandoori, it is a medium-thin gravy that tastes like most of the others, only the slightest bit sweeter.
There’s nothing unusual under the vegetarian specialties on the menu other than the way they are organized and named. The only words that were new to me are “navratam,” “shahi,” and “zaffrazi.” Oddly, most of the vegetables have very different names, but have very similar descriptions. It seems like everything is cooked with onions, ginger, garlic and spices. Some of them include butter, some cream, and some deliciously include both. It was very confusing, and slow for me to understand, so I wimped out and ordered gobhi alu. I know that part of the beauty of Indian food is the long-cooking of ingredients that eventually break down into soft and luxurious, but I was happy to see that much of the gobhi had maintained their floret shapes, instead of being just a chunkier version of the squishy mashed potato filling in the samosas. The gobhi alu wasn’t spicy at all, but I have realized that anxiously seeking out gobhi alu that has heat to make me sweat has been in vain. It is, and always has been, mild.
I will, however, continue trick-or-treating for thick, fluffy naan (Afghani?) and spicy curry that spills fire and smoke out of my ears.
11819 Wilshire Boulevard (@ Granville, 2nd Floor)
Los Angeles, CA 90025