Akbar – Curry not so Hurry

Restaurant: Akbar

Location: 2627 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, Ca 90403. 310-586-7469

Date: January 21 and May 22, 2011

Cuisine: Indian

Rating: My favorite CTM (Chicken Tikka Masala).


For 13 or so years Akbar has been one of my favorite Indian restaurants. Too many Indian places focus on low cost buffets of very over cooked food, but Akbar cooks everything to order — even baking their own Naan when you place the order. They are more focused on the cuisine of the Punjab (Northern India), with very good curries and kormas. You can get anything from extremely mild to blow the top of your head off. Once I had the “pepper lamb” on 5 (max heat) and my scalp sweat for hours.

The Menu can be found here.

Today they have us these spoonfuls of mushroom creme soup as an “amuse.” Much like any mushroom creme soup, but with a hint of spice — and spices.

Spinach soup, a similar but slightly different amuse on a different day.

As I was still hung over from the previous night’s massive Truffle Fest (SEE HERE), I had only a mango lassi. I love these, basically mango ice creme without the ice.

Riesling always goes well with Indian.

“Samosas. Crisp potato patty stuffed with spiced peas, served with Tamarind chutney.” These are stuffed with potato, peas, onion, flavored with curry and turmeric.  As always the sauce makes the dish — sweet and sour.

“Chicken Kati Roll. Whole wheat roti stuffed with highly spiced  diced chicken , onions and tomatoes.” These little burrito-like fellows are actually from a different meal (lunch on January 28), but I put them in because they’re damn good. Stuffed with something akin to the Chicken Tikka Masala (see below), and then coated in sweet mango sauce and a bit of Coriandrum (Latin for Cilantro) they have a sweet/spicy/tangy vibe that I love.

Akbar has an array of “pickles/chutneys” that come free. Coconut, mint, tangy, and the back one — my favorite — the pickled succotash in deadly hot oil.  I love the stuff, so much that if I ate as much as I would like, I’d feel the burn for days.

“Bhartha, tandoor roasted eggplant sautéed with tomatoes and peas.” This  is like an eggplant korma or something. It’s salty savory, with a very pleasant texture.

Cauliflower sauteed with onions and spices.

This is why I come here, and why for years we made at least one pilgrimage per week. The ”
Chicken Tikka Masala.” Chunks of tandoor grilled chicken breast in butter tomato curry. This is the best CTM I’ve had — and I’ve certainly had plenty. Not every time you come, it’s always good, but sometimes it’s great. You can tell the spices have been fresh ground, and often big chunks of cinnamon can be found. Tonight we had it mild, but I would have liked it up a notch or two.

Basmati rice, Aromatic rice infused with saffron.

“Chilean Sea bass marinated in herbs and grilled in the tandoor.” This is a relatively unusual dish, and delicious. The fish is buttery soft, and pleasantly spiced without being spicy.

Classic Naan, baked to order. Perfect to dip in the CTM sauce, or to slather with the spicy pickles.

I’ll be back.

Quick Eats: Chan Dara

Restaurant: Chan Dara

Location: 11940 W. Pico Blvd. (1/2 blk East of Bundy) West Los Angeles, CA 90064Phone: 310 479-4461

Date: December 19, 2010

Cuisine: Thai

Rating: Very good modernized Thai


Chan Dara is one of those funny places that doesn’t exactly fit the model of the traditional ethnic joint (which food-wise, it is). It has a bit more decor than the typical Thai place might, and it has a full bar and TVs running the game. But basically, this is a well run and reliable Thai restaurant with a big menu. Going with the decor, things are a little more Americanized, which is fine for most of my fellow diners, as a very traditional Thai place can be VERY spicy and/or use a lot of fish sauce.

Red wine doesn’t really go with Thai. My last bottle of this drier riesling. To me it tastes like flowers. “Lush lime scents are found in the delightful aromatics of the 1998 Riesling Cuvee Theo. This is a well-structured, pure, suave, concentrated, dense, yet elegant wine. Loads of spices, minerals, and fresh, crisp white fruits can be found in this chewy textured, medium-bodied offering. Projected maturity: 2002-2008.”

The very reliable chicken and beef satay. I love the juicy beef satay here. The sweet/spicy peanut sauce is great too, and the pickles.

Saigon,” roles. These soft rice crepe rolls are stuffed with various veggies. It’s all in the sweet sauce though.

Tom-Yum-Goong. The classic chili, lemongrass broth with mushrooms and shrimp. Given the cold and rainy day a little soup hit the spot.

Crispy Veggie rolls. My toddler’s favorite — well if you discount the rice crackers.

The sides for the coming dish.

Beef kabob on fire.

And here is the fire.  They dump some Bacardi 151 on top and light. Despite the show, the meat is wonderfully tender and has a great flavor.

Vegetarian pad Thai, with steamed tofu. This dish has the slightly exotic sweet/fishy tang that it is supposed to.

Pineapple duck curry. I love red currys, and this one is particularly good. Chunks of dark duck meat combine with the pinapple into a sweet/savory blend. Just a little heat (Chan Dara is a VERY mild Thai joint), but a lot of flavor.

Mango Salmon with cashews.  You can also see the coconut rice. Asian white rice is great, but a little coconut makes it even better. Then drench it in some red curry.

As usual, I ate too much.