Wandering in the hot midday sun on the edge of Culver City, we came upon Samosa House East (10700 W. Washington Blvd., at Overland), a vegetarian (and vegan-friendly) oasis a few blocks from the older Samosa House market. It was a fortunate discovery. For very little money, we were each able to get a combo plate featuring a choice of three dishes plus rice, raita, and naan. These included dal, subtly spiced to allow the taste of the lentils to come through along with a chili-generated kick; savory aloo curry, with tender chunks of potato; flavorful, slightly bitter baby eggplant; pleasantly garlicky chana masala; pakora curry, fried vegetables in a bright, creamy yogurt sauce; and jackfruit, which reminded us of a lemony artichoke. We mopped up the various sauces with our crisp, puffy naan, one plain and one garlic, and cooled ourselves with our sweet, thick mango lassis. Though full, we squeezed in a samosa, a crisp, delicately fried pastry stuffed with potatoes, peas, and carrots that tasted, surprisingly, of cinnamon, a flavor that grew on us, especially when we dipped pieces in the tamarind-date and cilantro-mint chutneys. As we finished the last morsels, we found ourselves in a Utopian revery in which Samosa House had miraculously replaced McDonald’s. Maybe it was the lingering effects of the heat or the soothing warmth of the spices, or maybe it was the combination of speed, cheapness, and, yes, quality that made us believe another world really was possible.
A Kosher Thai restaurant in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood south of Beverly Hills, Bodhi Vegetarian and Vegan (9303 Pico, near Doheny) scores points just for existing. The delicate steamed dumplings, stuffed with carrots, peas, corn, and cabbage and topped with pleasingly pungent garlic, were the highlight of the evening, both wholesome and tasty. The fried wontons, however, filled with a similar mixture, were dry, as was the fried tofu in our two entrées. Of these, the spinach with garlic sauce was more successful, albeit a bit salty, with a slight bitterness from the overcooked garlic. The pad thai, though passable, was saturated with a too-sweet peanut sauce. Though our dinner here tonight was not strong enough to justify a return visit any time soon, at least we can say that this tiny restaurant has its heart in the right place.