South Indian cuisine, incidentally vegetarian
Friday, April 28 2000
For dinner, Kim and I walked a block from our home to Santa Monica Blvd., and, in one of those compressed corner mini-malls common in West LA, dined at a place billing itself to be a "South Indian" restaurant. Unlike any Indian restaurant I've been to before, the overwhelming majority of diners were themselves Indian. This confirmed something I've already noticed about this part of West LA; it has unusually large Arab, Persian, Indian and Chinese populations, to the point where businesses post signs written entirely in Asian languages and ethic restaurants attract diners largely of their own ethnicity. The upside of this phenomenon is that these restaurants come with very little pretense. For now, they seem to be content serving their respective ethnic community without applying much effort to becoming the respected upscale restaurants they could be. Since they must content themselves with pleasing members of their own communities, the food ends up being authentic, with few concessions to prevailing American paradigms, be they related to spice, ambiance, music, or bathroom cleanliness.
The host could see for himself that we weren't regulars, though he did ask us if we'd ever eaten there before. When he learned we hadn't, he asked if we'd ever had Indian food before. Who knew? We could have just arrived from Goshen, Virginia and been diving into this wacky ethic restaurant thing headfirst and in need of counseling. He assured us that South Indian food, while completely different from the more familiar North Indian cuisine, was far better. He didn't mention that it was entirely vegetarian.
The menu was unfamiliar, so we relied on the host to come up with suggestions, exactly as we'd done at Galoka, the La Jolla restaurant that served as our hang-out place of choice until late January 2000.
Interestingly, the food was almost exactly like the food we'd been served at Galoka, leaving me to suspect that perhaps Galoka is also a South Indian restaurant, albeit with one with white table cloths, steep La Jolla prices, and somewhat blander food.
In the end, we showed the staff what sort of whiteness we were made out of. South Indian food, much like Taco Bell, doesn't make for good leftovers, so we did what what we could to eat everything we'd been presented. On display for all to see was the fact that we had completely devoured our super-spicy maroon-colored chutney, a chutney whose spice was so alien and funky to my pallet as to remind me of childhood experiences licking leaking D batteries.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next