Why can’t LA manage to come up with at least one really great Indian restaurant? I’m talking about the likes of which one sees in London. They have the most fantastic places like Amaya (http://www.amaya.biz/) that are sleek blends of hip style, incredible food, chill beats, and lively bar scenes. Going out for Indian is a whole night of entertainment. Sadly, LA lacks anything like it. I know there’s Tanzore. I like the ambiance but the food, while good enough, never manages to deliver the wow punch. Then there’s reliable old Bombay Cafe, which hasn’t changed in years. It’s more of mid-week restaurant than a big night out. There are a smattering of places in Beverly Hills and across the city, but still…they just fall a little short. So I give up. I decided to try to create an Indian dinner party at home. Hip Bollywood remixes, lush tropical flowers, and exotic scents set the mood. I chose a few fusion-y starters and nibbles, as well as a mango fool for dessert. For the main, I settled on a Goan curry from Camellia Panjabi’s authoritative tome, “The Great Curries Of India”. Where was I going to find all the ingredients for this meal? Little India of course! I headed straight to Pioneer Blvd in Artesia for one-stop shopping. I found everything easily enough (except for “true Kashmiri chilis” that Ms. Panjabi insists upon). But I had another motive for driving that far. Ever since I read in the LA Times about a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that specializes in Mumbai street food, and in particular a sandwich called a “dabeli”, I had to try it. So after much searching and u-turns, I eventually ended up at Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se (From the streets of Mumbai). Inside the simply decorated restaurant, I met the owner, Sailesh Shah, who with his wife have shaken up the Artesia food scene. A gentle, unassuming man, Sailesh spoke to me at length about his profound beliefs in vegetarianism and the teachings of Gandhi. It seemed clear to me that he was a deeply spiritual man. He took time away from his busy day to go through my shopping list, instructing me on what to look for and which of the local markets was likely to have the obscure ingredients. Then he added my name to a waiting list of people desperate to spend an afternoon in a cooking class with him, his 13-year-old daughter (who he brags is an amazing chef), and another Italian/Indian fusion chef from Napa. The list has grown to 400 since the article in the Times. Finally he brought me the dabeli, or to be more exact, two dabeli which is one order. They consist of a feathery toasted bun cradling a wonderfully spicy, soft, and crumbly Mumbai-masala potato patty. The flavors are then layered with chili peanuts, halved green grapes, raw onion, and pomegranate seeds. The effect is dazzling! The sandwiches are spicy, salty, sweet, tart, crunchy all at the same time. The overall sensation is pure heaven. I ate in a trance, washing them down with an iced yogurt drink flavored with saffron, cardamom, pistachio, and almond. The complexity of this “piyush” floored me and left me feeling refreshed, exhilarated, and extremely lucky. Ever since I shook hands with Sailesh and left Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se, I have not been able to stop thinking about the dabeli. Perhaps I’ll have to host another Indian dinner party soon… Oh, and the evening was a smash success!
Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se
17705 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, Ca 90701 (562) 860-6699