R: Los Angeles is truly a city of culinary treasures from all parts of the globe. While there are countless Indian restaurants within L.A.'s sprawling environs, one small, unassuming Indian cafe stands apart. Bawarchi Indian Kitchen, located in a strip mall in Culver City on the corner of Motor Avenue and Venice Blvd., towers above the rest because of Grand Chef Sabherwal.
Z: If you haven't tasted Chef Sabherwal's exceptional Mughlai cuisine, you haven't sampled the best Indian dining in LA. Born into a family of restaurateurs in New Delhi, he gravitated to the kitchen at a very young age. Recognizing his creative abilities, his family enrolled him in a top Indian culinary school equal in stature to Cordon Bleu. One of the youngest to graduate, at age 17, he began working at five-star restaurants in India where he honed his skills. Los Angeles is now his home, and Bawarchi, which means chef, is where he spends an average of 16 hours a day cooking, chatting with customers, and watching his business grow.
R: Once inside Bawarchi, we were engulfed in the captivating aromas flowing throughout the cafe. We counted 20 different totally vegetarian dishes displayed in steam trays behind protective glass. Of the 20 dishes, an average of 12 to 14 are vegan and are clearly labeled.
Z: We took advantage of the Lunch and Dinner Special that includes a choice of any three of the 20 vegetable dishes displayed. In addition, we could choose Basmati Pilau Rice or Steamed Saffron Basmati Rice, along with Garlic or Plain Naan or Tawa Roti, which is a wheat bread.
R: We decided on Basmati Pilau Rice and Tawa Roti and sat at one of the small tables in the tiny cafe. Within moments, a young woman brought our sumptuous meals, each on a large, impressive looking wooden tray lined with a white placemat.
Z: Rather than serving on paper or plastic plates with plastic utensils, Chef Sabherwal has gone green and prefers to bring a touch of elegance to his dining patrons. Small, attractive umber ceramic bowls held the vegetable dishes, rice, and fresh vegetable salad, while the bread was served on a round, flat ceramic dish.
R: The wooden tray and ceramic bowls were representative of the classic thali, but one that was elegantly dressed for a very special occasion. Before we took our first taste, we recognized our dining experience was going to be aesthetically awesome, and it was.
Z: My first forkful of Lotus Root Curry lived up to my expectations--full of the rich flavor of expertly blended spices, a little heat, but not too much, and a delightful crunch provided by the lotus root. The next bite became a truly exceptional taste adventure--the Potato and Eggplant dish was laced with fennel seeds along with a secret ingredient that exploded with uniquely delicious flavor. While Chef Sabherwal was eager to talk about some of the ingredients in his dishes, he kept some mysteriously hidden away in a trusted corner of his kitchen.
R: My Jackfruit Curry choice was a winner. The chef is a true artist when it comes to combining spices in a way that none stands distinctly apart but rather folds into a magnificent kaleidoscope of satisfying flavor. I also ordered the Black Lentil Dal and the Soy Chicken that looked like a chicken drumstick enveloped in delicious sauce.
Z: Rice can often be rather mundane and hardly worth a mention, but not the Basmati Pilau. This rice was dotted with a colorful confetti of slivered and minced green beans, carrots, purple cabbage, spinach, purple onion, peas, and even cashews. We loved this rice that featured pleasing texture and a boatload of veggie vitamins.
R: Another unique feature not found in most Indian restaurants was a bowl of fresh salad consisting of romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, and shredded purple and green cabbage--truly a welcome touch for health-conscious vegans.
Z: I can't imagine anyone going hungry after this meal that even included two pieces of Tawa Roti (wheat chapatti) and a crunchy Papadum cracker folded into quarters. This terrific food combination is available for lunch and dinner every day for the amazing price of only $8, an unbeatable value.
R: And if you want a little something to quell the sweet tooth cravings, you must order the Cheesecake that comes in Avocado, Chocolate, or Berry flavor. We chose the Avocado Cheesecake and were stunned by its flamboyant presentation and taken completely by its exceptional flavor and texture. This cheesecake took Chef Sabherwal five years to develop. We can honestly say it has no equal.
Z: In addition to the multitude of steam table dishes, the menu includes Samosas at $3 and a wide variety of Pakoras at $2 to $3, Chats, Puris, and Vadas for $3 each. The chef prepares a variety of Kebabs daily in addition to his Bawarchi Specials like Sarson Ka Saag for $6. Desserts and Beverages are plentiful at $2 to $3.
R: During our dinner we noticed a steady stream of patrons coming for take out in addition to those dining in. The steady customers were welcomed with a big smile and a special warm greeting from Chef Sabherwal. It's not difficult to become acquainted with the chef--just tell him you enjoyed the food and watch his face blossom into a giant smile.
Bawarchi Indian Kitchen
Reviewed February 2011