Samosa House East

Currying favor: (Clockwise from top left) dal, raita, aloo curry, baby eggplant; with naan

Currying flavor: (Clockwise from top left) dal, raita, aloo curry, baby eggplant; with naan

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.



SaMo high: Chandni's samosas

SaMo high: Chandni’s samosas

Kulcha club: Lobhia (right) and onion flatbread

Kulcha club: Lobhia (right) and onion flatbread

Comfort food: Rurka alu

Comfort food: Rurka alu

Chandni (1909 Wilshire Blvd., near 19th St. ), a vegetarian Indian restaurant just a couple of blocks away in Santa Monica, has supplied us with many delicious and satisfying meals in the past year. The name, as the website explains, means “moon,” which in turn is connected with motherhood and, by extension, Mom’s cooking. The connotation is apt, since Chandni’s fare really does come across as simple, nourishing food straight from the kitchen of a Punjabi mother or grandmother. Tonight we started, as always, with our two lassis, mango and sweet mint, both of them sweet and tangy yogurt-based beverages ideal for quenching any spiciness in the meal but cool and refreshing in their own right. For an appetizer, we chose samosas, triangular fried pastries filled with a savory, slightly spicy blend of potatoes and peas. Both elements, the filling and the crisp outer layer, reminiscent of an egg roll without the grease, were tasty enough to eat independently, but the overall package was so good that we completely ignored the chutneys meant to accompany it. For our entrées, we chose our usual lobhia and rurka alu—the former, black-eyed peas allowed to shine without undue meddling; the latter, chewy, layered potato balls in a tomato-onion sauce that manages to be sweet, savory, piquant, and spicy all at the same time. Instead of rice, we ordered onion kulcha, a warm, toasty flatbread stuffed with caramelized onions that peek out from the air-bubble craters in the surface; it served very nicely to mop up the remaining sauce from the rurka alu. Chandni’s Indian comfort food is matched by the homey comfort of the restaurant itself, with its commodious banquettes, soft Indian music, and genial owner. It’s nothing fancy, but neither is Mom’s kitchen, and when you want food that soothes your spirit, it’s hard to do better than that.

Bodhi Vegetarian and Vegan

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.