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Delicious Spree LA to Z...Asian Kitchen

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

Yesterday, LAist made a visit to All India Cafe, a restaurant that does a fairly good job of representing foods from all over the subcontinent of India. Today, we go to Asian Kitchen in Culver City, for Indian and Pakistani cuisines.

Asian Kitchen is situated in the back corner of a rundown looking plaza on the corner of Venice Boulevard and Motor Avenue. The sign is a bit faded, and somewhat overshadowed by its neighbor, Taste of India, though it appears they are sister restaurants, not competitors, from very similarly designed signs in their adjacent windows. One of the signs in Asian Kitchen’s window is a large green letter B. Hmmm, there are a lot of reasons a restaurant can get a mediocre rating, so we go inside anyway.

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Asian Kitchen has no atmosphere per se, but it is a step up from the usual holes in the wall along Venice Blvd. It’s surprisingly spacious, given its very limited squashed-into-the corner storefront, and the inside of the restaurant looks clean. White tablecloths are topped with thin sheets of glass. It’s 12:30, high-time for a lunch crowd, but there is a lone diner in the front booth, and he looks like he works there. Where is everyone?

We ignore the regular menu and look at the printed specials that are slipped in between the glasstop and the tablecloth. The server wasn't able to help much on the menu other than, "Yes, people like that." We began to worry that it appeared he had never actually eaten any of the food here. In fact, though he had fairly dark skin, we wondered if he was even Indian or Pakistani. Not so. He and the man who had been eating alone when we first walked in and now donned an apron, jabbered away in spanish.

Both the haleem and the seekh kebab we ordered came out before the samosa appetizer, which defaulted to beef, because Asian Kitchen was out of the other kinds. Already out of vegetable samosas, but no one else was in the restaurant?

Haleem is a caramel colored Pakistani stew of beef and ground lentils. Though the flavor was tasty, the texture was thick and sticky, like a pasty, gluey porridge. With the consistency of peanut butter, it worked better as a spread on the naan rather than as something eaten out of a bowl with a spoon. We didn't like haleem too much.

The trip to Asian Kitchen was motivated initially by a search for puffy naan, which is more traditional to Pakistani and Afghani cuisines rather than Indian. The naan here wasn't bad, but it was pretty much the same as every other Indian restaurant. It looks like Afghani will be making an appearance on LAist's delicious spree sometime.

The seekh kebab came with chaam masala, chickpeas the same color as the haleem. With a sprinkling of chopped coriander, the plate looked pretty, but the meat itself tasted dry, almost as if it had been made the day before and re-heated.

Samosas were good, but very different from what we're used to at other Indian restaurants. Perhaps that's the Pakistani angle coming in, or maybe Asian Kitchen just does samosas differently. The pastry was thin and crispy, like an eggroll wrapper, and the spicy ground beef filling was sparse. The samosas came with a light green chutney, which actually helped make the rather dry seekh kebabs palatable.

The samosas, the seekh kebabs, and the haleem weren't conspicuously spicy in taste, but we did develop a faintly visible glisten on our foreheads. Were the red peppers in the samosa beef filling that surreptitiously spicy? Perhaps the haleem had a covert chili that kicked in later. We kept dipping everything in the light green chutney, to cool down, but the glisten didn't fade. As it turns out, the cool, refreshing green chutney in which we had been generously dunking everything to counteract the heat, was actually made of green chilies - extremely spicy.

The food at Asian Kitchen was not inedible, but we probably won't order haleem again. In fact, given all the little worries throughout the meal, LAist will likely look for Pakistani puffy naan elsewhere.

Asian Kitchen
10406 Venice Boulevard (at Motor Avenue)
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 559-9644