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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Dining in Paradise

In most restaurant reviews the reader sees the restaurant experience from one person's point of view. In the reviews of the Vegetarians in Paradise, the reader experiences the eatery from the point of view of two people in dialogue form. Vegetarians in Paradise brings you those two intrepid restaurant aficionados, Zel and Reuben Allen, who will take you along as they eat a swath across the Los Angeles environs.

Editors Note: At the time of this review in October 2000 this restaurant was totally vegetarian. In April 2001 they added chicken, fish, lamb, and shrimp dishes to their menu. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings were prepared in separate areas of the kitchen and served in separate buffet areas.

In the fall of 2001 the restaurant continued its same policy but changed its name to Punjab Foods. In 2006 the restaurant changed hands and now offers South Indian cuisine as well as Northern style dishes. Since we recognize vegetarian dishes are readily available at most Indian restaurants, we removed the listing from Los Angeles Vegetarian Restaurants.

R: After having driven past Delhi Sweet & Snacks many times in the past few months, we decided to explore some exotic nibbles. We enjoy Indian food immensely but didn't realize it was more than just a bakery and snack shop. What a serendipitous find this little restaurant turned out to be!

Z: Located just about 500 feet north of Sherman Way on Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, this small, square building with floor to almost ceiling windows on three sides appears to hold a throng of people, some at tables and some standing. From the street one notices a large banner on the building that reads, "Pure Indian Vegetarian Food." We parked in their ample lot on the south side of the building and entered, eager to indulge our hunger pangs.

R: If I were one to order dessert first, I would have had a serious challenge making a decision. On our left was a glass case that displayed 29 different varieties of baked goods of every shape, size and color. On the wall behind the counter was a black display board with white letters that listed their Indian lunch and dinner specialties.

Z: Informality is their style, and with a warm and friendly greeting, they helped us select dishes that were dairy-free. We placed our order at the counter and chose one of six booths that lined the sides of the room. In the center of the room were Formica-top tables and padded wooden chairs.

R: If you were on a tight budget and still wanted to eat well, you could select the buffet served all day long from morning till closing. The buffet offers four different Vegetarian Curries, Pakora, Raita, Dessert, Basmati Rice, Naan, Salad, and Chutney, all for only $3.49 per person.

Z: That's certainly getting value for money. However, we chose to order a la carte and selected Bengan Bhartha, Chana Masala, Okra, and Rice. For our bread we chose Tandoori Roti, and Gobi Paratha. As we waited for our food, we noticed the multi-colored little lights that lined the soffets, and were rather distracted by the blaring corner television set that featured an Indian language sitcom complete with laugh track. We learned that this station comes in by satellite dish.

R: Our steaming dishes were brought to us by a smiling woman named Sunita Bhataa who seemed to be doing several tasks at once, from taking orders to clearing tables to serving water. There's no fancy china here, folks. Our food was served in styrofoam bowls, styrofoam plates, and water was served in styrofoam cups. When we realized we didn't have any utensils, Zel figured out that they were close to the buffet.

Z: As I gathered the plastic utensils, I recognized quickly that the napkins were actually square paper towels and noticed the fast-food-style trashbins for diners to buss their own paper goods. Our first bites were amazingly delicious, as were our second and third ones, too. The food has a homemade quality. It's as if a friend from India invited us to her home for dinner.

R: We were asked how spicy we liked our food and discovered that medium has more than one interpretation. Their medium is actually cranked up just a bit higher, but the flavors and the variety of ingredients were outstanding.

Chef Z: They've been open eight months and have acquired a following of devoted diners. We noticed they also had a steady flow of customers to order take out. One man even brought food out to the family car parked in the lot.

R: For those unfamiliar with Indian food, Bengan Bhartha is roasted eggplant made with onions and tomatoes and seasoned with a variety of aromatic spices. Here, they added peas and heightened the seasonings to present an exceptionally tasty dish. The Chana Masala is a specialty featuring garbanzo beans cooked with ginger and spices. The flavor was so satisfying, it still lingers in my mind.

Z: I'm surprised you didn't mention the Okra first, since that's one of your favorite veggies. The Okra, that was sliced, included onions and tomatoes and was stewed with seasonings I can never quite emulate when I attempt it at home. I would love to master the art of cooking with those exotic spices.

R: We also included not one, but two Indian breads. That's Zel's influence. She simply has to explore it all. I kept shaking my head thinking this is just too much food. However, when the Gobi Paratha arrived, I dove in and devoured it right along with her. This bread was bursting with the flavor of spiced, grated cauliflower that was stuffed inside. I noted that it was a bit oily. The other bread is a baked whole wheat flat bread called Tandoori Roti.

Z: When the food is tasty and of good quality, word of mouth spreads quickly about a new restaurant. We predict success. They really know how to dish up great flavor with a smile.

R: Money goes far here. Their prices are half of what most Indian restaurants charge, and their portions are generous. We took leftovers home for the next day and were looking forward to those tasty dishes for lunch. We departed with full stomachs and goodbyes from the friendly staff who urged us to "Come back again."

7257 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Canoga Park, CA 91303

Reviewed October 2000

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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