CONTEMPORARY INDIAN CUISINE FROM LONDON HITS LA
It’s funny that the cuisine of England is best known for its pub fare, naturally, and Indian food. It is true that the British aren’t known for having the best dishes, but it is accepted that their Indian food is pretty stellar. And utilizing Consulting Executive Chef Manju Choudhury, one of the most successful Indian restaurateurs in London, Cardamom on Beverly Boulevard is looking to make quite an impression on Los Angeles foodies.
Taking over the former India’s Oven space, which had been in operation since 1981, are business partners, and brother-in-laws, Nasir Syed and Badrul Chowdhury. Syed even began his career as a manager at India’s Oven after moving to Los Angeles from Bangladesh in the early 2000s.
“This restaurant and space have great meaning to me, as this is where I began my life when I moved here,” says Syed. “Opening Cardamom has been a dream, and being able to do this as a family venture has made the process that much more meaningful.”
While Syed serves as Cardamom’s co-owner and General Manager, Chowdhury runs the kitchen where he mans the tandoor ovens as the resident Executive Chef. And that’s where their uncle, Chef Manju Choudhury, comes into play, creating wonderfully tasty and authentic Indian dishes.
The plan is creating bring a version of London’s Indian cuisine to Los Angeles with Cardamom. “The British ruled India for 200 years, and because of this, much of the Indian culture and cuisine has become integral to the London experience,” explains Choudhury. “There are several top Indian Chefs in the UK, serving some of the best Indian cuisine you will experience, even more so than in India itself.”
Choudhury’s culinary philosophy is simple: “Always fresh, and never frozen or canned,” he says. He also travels directly to India several times a year to purchase premium whole, fresh spices, which he then grinds directly in-house to season each and every dish.
Offering more than 100 menu items, many of which will be unfamiliar to Los Angeles diners, it can be daunting deciding what to order. “Each dish was chosen for a reason,” Syed says. “We want to represent all of India, and not necessarily one specific region, as each region has something incredible to offer, along with flavors and technique that stand apart from the rest.”
During our recent visit for dinner, we took house recommendations and tried various dishes, along with some very nice wines. We started with the Keema Naan, Indian bread filled with spicy lamb minced meat, which was a little too doughy without much lamb taste.
Our next appetizer, Singara—Punjabi style vegetable parcels in crisp pastry served with date and tamarind chutney—was a great starter item. Likewise, the Jhinga Patiapoori, jumbo prawns cooked in zesty, sweet and sour sauce, was delightful.
We started with bigger items with the Gosht Tikka Lasoni—lamb cubes marinated in spices, garlic and yogurt then baked in Tandoor, served with roasted bell pepper and onion—which was a hit at our table.
Looking for a seafood dish, we went with the Shahee Jhinga—delicately spiced fresh lobster in creamy mushroom tomato sauce. It turns out, supposedly, that this dish is a favorite among Indian royals. I don’t know about that but it is rich and delicious.
Wanting a chicken dish, we ordered the Murgh Makhani—a North Indian classic featuring succulent, boneless chicken tikka simmered in smooth tomato butter sauce flavored with funegreek. The chicken was tender and tasty and I just love the sauce.
Meat-eaters will love the very spicy Gosht Madurai—their take on the highly popular chili lamb prepared with tender lamb cooked in Tandoor then simmered in tomato and chili sauce. This dish has a wicked kick, but it’s not too overpowering and it definitely delights.
If you’re looking for a veggie dish, the Saag Paneer—homemade cottage cheese tossed with green peas then cooked in sauce—is fantastic. It is one of the best Saag Paneers we’ve ever had.
Room for one last beef dish, we relished the Beef Bhuna—semi dry beef cooked with spices and herbs. I must say, all the food at Cardamom is so flavorful.
“We are one of many Indian restaurants in Los Angeles,” Choudhury says. “What I wish to accomplish at Cardamom is to set it apart from the rest as an authentic Indian culinary experience that will take you to every region of India, using the techniques of some of the UK’s top Indian Chefs. At the same time, we aim to be a destination for those who love Indian cuisine, and to become a mainstay in this incredible city for our families, friends and neighbors.”
Cardamom is open for lunch every day Sunday through Thursday from 11 am to 2:30 pm and for dinner from 5 pm to 10:30 pm Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 pm Friday and Saturday. Call 323-936-1000.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography by Acuna-Hansen