Another one of those eateries I miss from the days of working on the west side, this is the restaurant that got me hooked on chicken korma. I'd go alone or with my friend Joe, counting on the reliable buffet to make the rest of my day awesome.
The West Hollywood location has a luxurious triangular orange-walled patio, its fountains and Indian music successfully drowning out the irritable Mercedes Benz and Range Rover engines on Santa Monica.
The Burbank location is larger, its pillared halls and painted alcoves hidden between a massive parking structure, a movie theater and a shameless Fuddruckers. Both kitchens have delicious smells radiating from them.
The West Hollywood buffet was where I started, and it is reliable: the Chicken Tikka Masala is a satisfying electric clay red, the dal is thin, yellow and spicy, and the Tandoori Chicken is always good despite its drying out a little on the buffet pan. Settling down for a real meal, though, is where Flavor of India shines. You will get a small disc of rice Papadam, good enough but well-matched with a pumpkin chutney, unexpectedly vibrant and spicy as a jealous goddess.
For a starter, we love the South Indian Idli, dense patties of ground rice and lentil steamed and served in Sambar, a lentil soup. The texture of the idli cake is grainy like cornbread, and comfortably warm; accompanying this is a white, gritty spackle of coconut chutney, which adds a cool balance of sweet coconut and turmeric and a new level of complexity.
Naan is always welcome, but I have a passion for their interpretation of pratha. It's wetter than it looks, unleavened bread with a buttery sheen, baked until flaky and bubbled. Although it makes your eyes close in pleasure when you drag it through something saucy, it needs to be dipped in nothing, and if there are more than three of you, order two of these.
Matter Tofu is a soupy dish of peas, green chilies, and ginger. Soft tofu cubes the color of saffron replace the typical potato or cheese, and soak up the tomato-heavy broth. The peas are small, crisp and slightly spicy. It benefits from absorbant heaps of white rice.
Back to what hooked me. My favorite rendition of Chicken Korma. Boneless chicken soft enough to separate with a fork is bathed in a blend of onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, peanuts (instead of the usual almonds) and raisins.
Together it is happily married in a tongue-enfolding, velvety rich sauce that has me smiling for many minutes, with a perfect pinkish orange color somewhere between pumpkin and vodka sauce. It is a "Marry-Eff-Kill what would be your last meal if you were trapped on a desert island" kind of dish for me.
Flavor of India does a hot masala chai worthy of contemplation, even-handed with cardamom, and their spiced ice tea, a measure of milk on the side, is refreshingly cool.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), West Side/West Hollywood, Indian, Burbank/North Hollywood )
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