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Delicious Spree LA to Z: A

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LAist is going on a delicious spree around LA from A to Z. This week: A is All About Indian.

All India Cafe is a clean, bright white restaurant located on the second floor of a strip mall in West LA. (There’s also a location at 39 South Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena). Up until this last time, we didn’t know All India Cafe was also related to Electric Karma, a trendy sexy Indian spot on 3rd Street in Los Angeles, which we also love.

We start with samosas, deep fried pastries stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes, peas, and spices. All India Cafe makes them in long, narrow cones, that makes for a few big, squishy potato-y bites, and a few thin, crisp bites toward the tip. The preference here is spicy to sweet, so we add our own dash of hot sauce to the sweet tamarind chutney.

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Of course, we never go without naan, and though we're not quite sure how “authentic” it is, it’s usually garlic naan. On the first visit to All India Cafe, the naan was the fluffiest, puffiest, softest naan we had ever tasted, but unfortunately, on all subsequent visits, it hasn’t been quite the same. There’s nothing like the first time.

Basmati is a deliciously fragrant rice. All India Cafe offers a plain basmati rice and a daily Chef's Special made with whatever vegetables are in season. This time, it looks a bit like Chinese Yang Chow fried rice, with red pepper, corn, peas, and some other vegetable that looks mysteriously like ginger, but has no real taste.

We order a mixed plate from the tandoori and palak paneer. The mixed plate has chicken and lamb. Chicken tikka are boneless pieces of chicken that have been marinated with cilantro, ginger, garlic, and other spices, and tandoori chicken are whole pieces with bones. Both are tender, though the tandoori chicken, perhaps because it was cooked with the bone, was more flavorful. Boti kebab and sheesh kebab are lamb. Lamb is always a gamble, for as cute as they fluffy white babies are at the petting zoo, the few times we eat lamb, in whatever cuisine, it has always smelled like sweaty feet. Perhaps all the onions, green chilies and spices in the marinade were enough to mask the smell, so All India Cafe's lamb was tolerable.

Boti kebab are small pieces of lamb, which were slightly pink inside which caused some hesitation, but they were tender. Sheesh kebab look more like lamb sausage, and though spicy ("spicy" as in "has spices," not spicy heat), they were a bit dry, and needed a long, deep dip in the kachumber, made of cucumber, cilantro, and lime juice. Quite refreshing as a dip for the naan as well.

Palak paneer is delicious, and though most of us tend to think of Indian food as heavy and fattening (even the vegtables, since they are cooked with oil) it doesn't taste like All India Cafe has even used oil in this. Perhaps the attraction to the palak paneer is the little cubes of paneer cheese that look like very familiar tofu. In fact, though All India Cafe does not, it's sister Electric Karma offers many dishes with tofu in place of meat or paneer.

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All India Cafe
12113 Santa Monica Boulevard (at Bundy Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 442-5250
www.allindiacafe.com