The plethora of vegetarian Indian kitchens in and around Culver City is a wonderful thing. I’m often known to leave work and head to Father’s Office for a Pliny The Elder or two before hitting up Samosa House (both locations) or Bawarchi for a box full of great value meatless Indian food to take home and eat in front of the TV.
Frankly, the original Samosa House (which has been in Culver City for over 30 years) is quite a trek for me, and has had an historically spotty reputation for the taste of its food and quantities served. But perhaps due to competition from the newer Indian kitchens, or even the shitty blog post I wrote back in October 2008, Samosa House has transformed itself into a paragon of scrumptious food, value and excellent service. The staff are friendly and helpful when asked about vegan items, and take pride in piling your food choices into the containers with a smile. They always have a vegan bread, tasty rice and have recently added things like veggie burgers, dosas and rotating specials just to spice things up a little.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself going to Bawarchi more than Samosa House purely because it’s a couple of miles closer and (crucially!) east of the 405, meaning that I can get there much faster from where I live and work. I’d been bitten by the Bawarchi spell: closer location, exact same food offerings, smiling staff and great service that I began to wonder why I’d ever have an excuse to visit Samosa House again. Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago when I found myself running an errand closer to Samosa House so I popped in, just like the old days, and ordered a couple of combination meals to go.
When I got home and opened up the meals, I realized that I was getting far, far more for my money at Samosa House than I was at Barwarchi. More curry, more bread, less rice (making room for more curry!), less raita (non-vegan stuff Bawarchi always manages to sneak into the bag) and the food was, frankly, better. It wasn’t as dry, tasted much fresher and had a fuller flavor without being overly saturated with spice.
Just to be sure, I went back to Bawarchi a couple of days ago and ordered my usual – the exact same dishes at the same price as Samosa House. This time, though, I watched the friendly bearded gentleman behind the counter spoon my food in. He was unbelievably diligent in ensuring that he put the absolute minimum of food in each compartment (except for the rice, of course, which filled 80% of the large compartment). At one point, he actually TOOK OUT some jackfruit that he put in, while all the time talking to me so I’m distracted from his hand action like the victim of some Victorian illusionist.
The lentil dal was probably the worst example – he put so little in the box that it only filled one regular shot glass!
Of course, cramming a box with rice (factually, the world’s least expensive food crop) and 25-30% less food than one’s competitors goes straight to the bottom line – and in today’s economy, who doesn’t want to keep costs under control? Exactly.
I continued to watch him serve a couple of other customers, and I seriously think this guy has a Ph.D. in “food service cost control”: Measly portions, lots of rice and some clever slight of hand lead me to dismiss Bawarchi as a cost-driven business dealing in bait and switch techniques to the uninitiated.
I’m going to avoid Bawarchi for a while — until they improve the portions and put their customers first. and if, like me, you’ve dumped Samosa House for Bawarchi, try switching back for a while and see the difference. I promise you, it’s worth the extra 1.65 miles however you cut it.
11510 W Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
BawarchiTags: culver city, curry, indian food, westside
10408 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Some fads really bother me: Skinny jeans with Uggs, for example. Other fads have quite the opposite effect, one such being the plethora of vegetarian Indian fast food restaurants that are opening in West LA. The most recent addition to the scene is Bawarchi Indian Kitchen in Culver City, a deli-style shopfront serving up tasty Indian food mainly for the to go market.
Just a few blocks from LA’s original Samosa House, Bawarchi (translation: “Chef”) offers a counter service choice of over 20 vegetarian Indian dishes, many of which are vegan. If you decide to sit in, there are a few small tables crammed together for limited seating.
The best value option is the “Lunch and Dinner Special”, where you can choose a rice, 2 pieces of bread (make sure you get the roti, as the naan isn’t vegan!) and and three vegetable dishes from the buffet, a garden salad and pappadum for only $8.
If you go with a friend, you can mix ‘n’ match, leaving with six different dishes, and enough salad, rice and bread to fill you up.
If you’re super hungry, an extra $4 will get you a single 8oz size serving of any dish, and you can get two hot and fresh samosas for the ridiculously low price of only $3.
On our recent visit, we got two Dinner Specials, a couple of entrees and two samosas for only $27. As you can see from the pictures, this was A LOT OF FOOD, and has lasted several days in the fridge.
While the dishes varied in taste and flavor (some were certainly better than others), they were all consistently good, and the portions were a reasonable size for the price – though not generous by any means. What was generous, though, was the huge mound of rice and large Tawa Roti bread that we used to scoop up the food.
Once you get your food home, you’re in culinary heaven: a place you deserve to be after the difficult process that is visiting the restaurant. From the minute you arrive in the crowded, often full, strip mall parking lot you’re in for a confusing and borderline uncomfortable experience as you negotiate barrier after barrier in your quest for food.
First, there’s no clear indication on what you should do when you enter the restaurant. Some people were just standing by the door waiting to be shown in, while others sat down at empty tables, waiting to be served (there’s no greeter or table service that we could determine). When you get to the deli counter, a couple of servers are smiling and ready to accept your order, but there’s no clear place you’re supposed to stand for attention, so it’s a bit like ordering a pint at a pub in the UK: you hope to luck out and get noticed in the midsts of organized chaos.
For vegans, it’s even more tricky, as the chef (who is buried away in the kitchen) is the only person who knows what’s vegan and what isn’t. He kindly wafted into the restaurant, and individually pointed out roughly 16 out of the 20 or so dishes one by one “this is vegan, this is vegan, this is vegan… SIXTEEN TIMES”. All they really needed is some labeling to make the whole process much easier, and we had to get several reminders of what was, and was not vegan, having somewhat limited short-term memory.
Anyways, we ordered the following food:
Bey Kofta Masala (Lotus Root) – An east-Asian style curry that was very sweet, with crunchy Lotus Root.
Arbi (Tarro Root) – Similar sauce to above, but with a texture similar to well cooked carrot
Matar Kofta (Vegetable Balls) – Mushy, crispy falafel-esque balls of vegetables in a tomatoey sauce
Lahori (Jackfruit) – Not my cup o’tea, but seemingly everybody else’s favorite
Jeera Aloo (Potato and Cumin curry) – Pretty much as you’d expect: Slightly salty, but could have done with more taste
Dal Banjara (Lentil Dal) – One of the best dishes: Spicy lentils in a perfectly creamy base. I could eat a ton of this stuff, and probably will over the next few months.
Channa Patta (Garbanzo Beans) – Fresh tasting curry with tangy sauce and perfectly cooked Garbanzo beans
Makki Da Saag (Corn and Spinach) – Looked, and tasted like the lovechild of a can of spinach and a can of corn. Nothing to write home about.
Samosas – The signature dish of Samosa House, and seemingly Bawarchi too. Perfectly cooked, crispy, packed with vegetable stuff and totally awesome. Even the morning after.
The rice, bread and salad were all very nicely presented and tasted fresh.
Along with Samosa House, the flavorings were subtle, bordering on a little bland with not enough spice and heat to any of the dishes. Having said that, though, it’s a lot of food for the price, and really is quite decent as well as very filling.
In fact, the food was SO SIMILAR to Samosa House that we asked the server if they were related — he told us that the chef had recently left Samosa House, and is now one of the partners in Bawarchi: perhaps he took the recipes with him? Who knows….
After you’ve been to Bawarchi once, you know what to expect next time, and can, I’m sure, bustle through the place getting exactly what you want quickly and with little fuss.
Also, we heard that yet another Indian deli-style kitchen will be opening close by over the next few weeks. Add to that a second Samosa House location within a 5 minute drive, and we’re looking at a very interesting place to visit for Indian food lovers such as myself.
Good luck to Bawarchi – I’m sure that as they perfect the processes in the restaurant and branch out with new dishes things will only get better. Oh, and competition doesn’t hurt either.
Tip: Bawarchi is slightly better value than Samosa House. Although the prices and quantities are the same, you do get an extra side salad at Bawarchi, and the Pilau-style rice with spices and vegetables rice is much better than the boring steamed basmati at Samosa House.
bawarchi indian kitchen
10408 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90232
open daily 11am-10pm
Tags: culver city, curry, indian food, take-out, west side