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Electric Karma: Insert "Hollywood Meets Bollywood" Cliché Here!
Let’s be real. Finding good Indian food in LA is kind of like finding good Mexican food north of LA. You all have that friend from some Midwest town, who swears that King Taco has nothing on the burritos he knows back home, where the closest he’s had to a Mexican experience is watching Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy. No matter what ethnic fare strikes your own palette, you’ll inevitably suffer through at least four or five sub-par meals, hoping to find that elusive hole-in-the-wall gem, only to be disappointed by dry poultry and sketchy busboys staring at you from behind the soda fountain. But if you like your Tandoori spicy and your Naan thick (yow!) like I do, there’s one West Hollywood locale you shouldn’t pass up.
Electric Karma on 3rd is like, unintentionally and without merit, the ignored Jolie-Pitt child. Situated in the same area between Sweetzer and Crescent Heights as the seldom-empty Doughboys and Little Door, this gem is most likely a last resort for those diners too impatient for the 40 minute wait of the other two. However, what Electric Karma lacks in notoriety is more than compensated for in ambience and top-notch cuisine.
Once you enter the restaurant, you'll immediately descend upon a cozy and seductive atmosphere accented by hanging candles, sultry art illuminated by red backlights, and a hanging projection screen featuring the classics of Bollywood cinema. Separated into two large rooms, the first is dedicated to the unadventurous diner, what with your typical table-and-chair setup and all. The second room goes the more traditional Indian route with a tented-off ceiling, ankle-height tables surrounded by vibrantly colored pillows, and whimsical wall paintings of Hindu gods smiling upon you as you dine. Add a few hash pipes and women adorned in pink scarves, and you've got yourself a good old-fashioned Indian bordello.
But I digress. The food at Electric Karma is definitely worth the valet parking fee, because face it; you're not going to find parking on 3rd during dinnertime on a Saturday night. Although the bar is a secondary focus of the restaurant, the mango Indian sangria and the Indian mojito never fail to impress, mainly because there is always an appropriate amount of alcohol (i.e. enough to satisfy my underlying alcoholism.) The menu at Electric Karma is huge, so to maximize the amount of dishes to taste, we decided to order the Chicken Tikka combination platter for two. We started off with an appetizer of Samosas with Raita (yogurt sauce.) It couldn't get much better with its fresh ingredients, lack of greasiness, and great sauce. Once the waiter came out with the main course(s), our order turned out to be not so much a platter but more of a buffet fit for an army. First off, the Chicken Tikka arrived on a bed of grilled vegetables, still sizzling as it hit the table. It passed my patented Tikka test with flying colors; it tasted great, and it wasn't dry and all. While I can't say that I'm enough of a connoisseur to be able to identify the advertised 17 spices, the deliciously complex taste and fragrance was more than enough to convince me of their presence.
Enter the next five dishes: the standard Chicken Tikka Masala had an excellent curry sauce and is among my favorite Indian dishes. Being the immature eater that I am, I naturally constructed an Indian taco, featuring the fluffy Naan (Tandoori oven-cooked bread) stuffed with the curry chicken, Palak Paneer (blend of sautéed spinach and tofu), Aloo Gobi (cauliflower sautéed with a ton of spices) topped with more Raita. While all of these dishes certainly delivered, my favorite has to be the Chef's Vegetable dish, which is a mind-numbingly flavorful plate of mixed veggies cooked with a chili-lemon and coconut curry sauce. For lack of proper vernacular to describe the dish, let's just say that if the US and India spiraled into some sort of diplomatic quandary, the Chef's Vegetables could very well be a last remaining offer of appeasement. Topping off the meal with a mango ice cream dessert, it's easy to say that I hadn't been that satisfied with a meal in quite a while.
Our entire dinner cost about $65 for two, and we over-ordered by a long shot. Your average diner can definitely get away with enough food for far less. Entrées won't cost you more than about $16, and a single dish is more than enough to share. Combine that with a cool glass of mango sangria and one of their amazing appetizers, and you've got yourself one quality Indian experience. Perfect for anything from a romantic date to a party of 12, Electric Karma undoubtedly deserves to be ranked among the top Indian restaurants in LA.
Electric Karma, 8222 ½ W. 3rd St. in West Hollywood