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Photos: Goat Tacos And Bombay Falafel Bring A Twist To Indian Classics

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A recently opened Culver City spot is turning expectations for Indian food in L.A. on their head with creative California-inspired flavors.

Right in the heart of downtown Culver, Sambar is serving up fresh variations on classic dishes like chicken tandoori, while also introducing new dishes like a Vindaloo Porchetta or Truck Stop Goat Tacos—which suddenly feel quite at home here. Opened by Chef Akasha Richmond—who for years has been drawing crowds to her namesake eater, Akasha, just down the street—the new restaurant bravely expands the palate, but also keeps the menu approachable. Inspired by her travels throughout India, Richmond draws upon many regional cuisines, while also taking full-advantage of Southern California's abundant, seasonal produce.

Sambar is located in what was once Ford's Filling Station, which has received a sparkling overhaul. A colorful and modern glass chandelier hangs over modern, blonde-wood tables and undulating metal chairs. The bar remains in the same position off to the left as you enter, but your eyes are drawn to the roaring fires of the tandoori oven in the back. There's also still that great patio, perfect for people watching or catching a breeze.

The tandoori oven in the back is constantly put to task turning out delicious house-made turmeric naan or putting a nice sear on the chaat masala-spiced ora king salmon that comes with market greens and crisp rice. There's plenty of great street food-inspired small plates to share like the fried cauliflower and onion pakoras or the pappadoms—wafer-like crisps that come with avocado and tomato chutney. There's also the Chowpatty Beach Corn, which gives a delicious twist to Mexican street corn with the addition of house-made paneer cheese, cumin, black salt and lime. You also don't want to miss out on the Mississippi Masala chicken wings, which add an earthy and Indian-spiced twist to your typical fried chicken or the slow-roasted goat tacos served on corn rotis with paneer. You can also go for bigger dishes like the Yogi, which includes the spicy, corn-speckled Bombay Falafel or the Swami Thali—a platter of assorted smaller dishes, including the Punjabi Mama Greens. There's also a smaller Thali with an selection of flavor-packed house-made pickles great for customizing any dish. Not surprisingly, there's plenty of vegetarian options, as well as a number of vegan and gluten-free variations to choose from. The lamb burger—served with a tomato chutney and spiced potatoes—is also definitely worth investigating.

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Sambar offers a great selection of local craft and Indian beers, a solid wine list, and also some really fun and imaginative cocktails. Some of our favorites when LAist was invited to visit the restaurant on a recent balmy evening included the Blood Moon Over Bengal, which features bourbon, spiced blood orange liquor, orgeat, falernum and lime juice, and the refreshing and unique Sacred Cow, which features gin, yogurt and apricot liquor, lemon, honey, egg white, saffron bitters and pistachio crumbles. There's also a several great non-alcoholic options like the rose-pomegranate punch or the turmeric-ginger lemonade.

Sambar is located at 9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City, (310) 558-8800.